There are a lot of mixed opinions about Rex Ryan. Many people are turned off by his bombastic mannerisms and sweeping declarations. Many people blame Rex Ryan for being unable to produce a winner with some decent teams and some awful teams. Many people say Rex Ryan is responsible for arguably the best 2 year stretch in Jets history and a brief return to relevance. The truth is probably that Rex Ryan is a great coach for invigorating a struggling franchise. Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind and a very likable character. He will probably never be a great head coach. That said, Rex has been all about creating headlines this week to foster a division rivalry. And I have to admit, I haven't been so interested in a Jets-Bills game before. I really don't remember a time when the Bills were a good team. I have always viewed them more as a fellow sufferers than division rivals. I'm sure older Jets fans can point to the Kelly era of dominance, but I don't have a very strong memory of that time. The last time the Bills made the playoffs, I was only 11 years old. This meant that I had a lot more pity than vitriol for Bills fans. Rex Ryan has a way of changing that.
Where We Are
It was an ugly win last week against the Jaguars, but when you're fighting for a playoff spot, you'll take any win you can get. It's also important to remember that however inept the Jaguars have been in the past, they did manage to beat half of the teams in our division (including our upcoming opponents.) The win puts the Jets back in the driver's seat for a wildcard playoff spot, sitting at 5-3 over the first half of the season. Playing at home against a divisional rival coached by the team's former buffoon mascot...er head coach...is exactly what you want on a short week. The Jets have home field advantage against a team that has only had about 3 days to prepare. This is a team has real inside information on the players/schemes, having poached players in the offseason (including IK Enemkpilates) and the former head coach. That limited amount of preparation time is a real plus when playing against a team that knows you so well. And this is a game the Jets really need to win to stay on top in the wildcard chase.
Where They Are
I don't think I need to tell you anything about a Rex-led Bills team. Take a moment to review recent Jets history. Note the inability to win consecutive games. Note the endless tirade of penalties. Note the sloppy in game management and inability to make half time adjustments. Yeah, it's been more of that. While the Bills are technically only one game behind the Jets this year, the teams feel miles apart. You probably don't put much stock into power rankings, but consider that the Jets are listed at 10 and 11 while the Bills are listed at 16 and 15 in NFL and SI power rankings, respectively. The Bills just haven't shown any level of consistency and have managed to lose to some unimpressive teams.
|Fitzpatrick, Ryan||QB||Left Thumb||FP||FP||FP||probable|
|Smith, Geno||QB||Left Shoulder||FP||FP||FP||probable|
The Jets paid a lot of money so that they could boast the best secondary in the NFL. For the first quarter of the season, it was money well spent. Since then, things have been falling apart. The injury to Calvin Pryor and declining play from Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist didn't help. But the inexplicably predictable lapses from Cromartie hurt the Jets early on, but they have become brutal over the last few weeks. In the last two weeks, Cromartie has been arguably the worst corner in football. This is what PFF had to say last week (before another awful game from Cro) on their list of the top 10 worst free agent signings:
4. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets (four years, $32 million, 44.5 overall grade)In his return to the Jets, Cromartie ranks 90th among NFL cornerbacks this season. He has surrendered five touchdowns in coverage through seven games, giving up a 132.5 passer rating on targets thrown his way. Cromartie has five missed tackles while only producing three stops.
Many fans have complained that Cro needs to be benched and Marcus Williams needs to be given a shot at starting. With Cromartie doubtful for the game and dealing with injuries, those fans will likely get their wish. Williams had an exceptional statline last week and a very good bounce back game, but his Oakland tape shows a lot of flaws. Whoever plays opposite Darrelle Revis is going to get a lot of attention. Hopefully, Williams is ready for primetime.
The Bills have a lot of X-Factor-type players. Shady McCoy is that type of gamechanging back who you have to live and die by. Sammy Watkins has gone from rookie stud to injury prone loser to #1 receiver in a span of a few months. I'm going to have to go with Tyrod Taylor, however. I really don't know much about the guy, but if I'm a defensive coordinator, I would be afraid to play against him. He's shown that he has the arm strength and accuracy to hit the deep ball and the speed and athleticism to run when you don't spy him. This is a combination that really opens up the field, especially if you sprinkle in an impressive 1-2 punch with Shady (if he's healthy) and Karlos Williams. Taylor is the type of player that has X-Factor written all over him (not literally I assume, though some of these guys really go crazy with their tattoos) and the outcome of the game will likely rest on his shoulders.
Keys To Victory
It's a short week, so forgive me if I keep this brief. The Bills offense is highly inconsistent and seems heavily predicated on big plays. Get pressure against that weak offensive line and bring some exotic blitzes. On top of that, the Jets simply need to take good angles and wrap up. Tackling is paramount this week. Don't let any of these elusive players turn a 3rd and 12 into a 1st and 10 because you didn't wrap up. That's how you let backup Oakland running backs go for 59 yard TDs. And lose games.
On offense, take what you're given. The Bills are extremely stout in their front 7 and the combination of Gilmore and Darby has been extremely effective. Take the yards that the defense allows and don't let that Bills front 4 tee off on you. Don't be afraid to take shots because odds are that the Bills are going to get called for a penalty anyway...
The Bottom Line
Though this might not be a popular opinion over here, if I'm simply looking at the depth charts, I'd probably say that the Bills have a more talented roster. The defense is pretty rock solid. The offensive line is a mess, but the Bills have two elite running backs, a solid receiving corps, a well-above-average tight end, and a quarterback with some legitimate skills. The combination of poor coaching, lack of discipline, and key injuries has robbed a quality roster of several wins. While I expect the Jets to win this game at home, I think a lot of people are overlooking the talent that the Bills have because of their coach (and his silly moves, such as making IK Enemkpalisades a team captain for the game.) With Rex, you never know in these types of games. The Jets could win by 40 points while Tyrod Taylor is sacked for a safety while attempting a wild cat punt. I'm expecting a one score game that the Jets win along the lines of 24-20.