It's been a long time since I've been so excited about a Jets game. It's not just that they haven't sniffed the postseason in almost half a decade: They haven't played meaningful games in December in years. The Jets haven't been perennial bottom feeders, but they haven't had much to get excited about either. Now we're looking at a 10-5 Jets team that is coming off an overtime win against the Patriots. A team that is in the top half of the league in almost every offensive category. A team that is playing against Rex Ryan's Bills for a playoff spot. Regular season games don't get much more exciting than this one.
Where We Are
The Jets have now won 5 straight games behind a mostly healthy set of players. The Jets finally beat a team with a winning record, setting records of their own while doing it. The Jets are playing good football when it matters most. Not only is it good football, it's balanced football. The defense has been dominant for most of the season, but the offense has been underappreciated. The offense has scored a minimum of 17 points in every game, scoring at least 20 in 12 games. In fact, the Jets have not lost by more than 1 score in any of Fitzpatrick's games (the one exception came against Oakland when he was injured.) The Jets have played against mostly lousy football teams this year, but they've played good football. If they can win one more game, teams will not be looking forward to playing them in the postseason.
Where They Are
The Bills are a mess. It seems like I can say this most years, but I wasn't expecting it this year. After replacing Doug Marrone with Rex Ryan, Kiko Alonso with Shady McCoy, and Kyle Orton with Tyrod Taylor, I legitimately thought the Bills had playoff potential. One quarter into the season, it still seemed quite reasonable. Halfway into the season, it seems at least possible. After 8 weeks, the cracks were showing. Now? It's quite clear that the team is in total disarray. There have been complaints all year and now the team is looking to unload (arguably) it's best player. A year removed from a winning season, the Bills need to beat the Jets just to finish .500 on the year. The Bills went from first in sacks in 2014 (54) to second to last in sacks in 2015 (20.) They've already allowed considerably more yards and more points than last year despite the addition of a young stud in Ronald Darby and utilizing the top running game in football. Simply put, Rex Ryan has done a horrible job with the Bills defense this year. The team is a mess, the players are upset, and no one has anything to play for in week 17, Super Bowl or no.
|Fitzpatrick, Ryan||QB||L Thumb/R Elbow/Low Back||LP||FP||FP||probable|
|Taylor, Tyrod||QB||Rt. Shoulder||LP||LP||LP||Probable|
This week, I'm going with the big man. Muhammad Wilkerson has been dominant this year from start to finish, and I think it can be traced back to the quality of play around him. Yes, he's probably extra motivated in a contract year. But I think the additions of Williams and Mauldin have freed him up with more opportunities to pin his ears back and get the passer. Not only has he filled the stat sheet with a career high number of sacks, he's had a plethora of pressures that forced errant throws. With LeSean McCoy out for the Bills, their #1 rushing attack will be forced to rely heavily on Karlos Williams. While Williams is a dangerous young player, his powerful style is probably less effective against the #1 rushing defense in football. Wilkerson will have opportunities to shut down the Bills offense in both facets by consistently beating the man across from him. And with the Bills offensive line struggling at times (and their best linemen suffering from an illness), there should be plenty of opportunities to do just that. Go get your money, Mo!
With LeSean McCoy out, I'm going to stick with Tyrod Taylor. McCoy shredded the Jets as a runner and receiver in their last meeting, but Taylor was essentially shut down (only 170 total yards.) Still, Taylor has been extremely effective as a starter this season and has posted some really impressive numbers on the year (63.6% completion, 2853 passing yards, 23 total touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 517 rushing yards, and only 1 fumble lost.) His numbers are a bit inflated, but he's had a truly exceptional year for a player who was more or less assumed to be a career backup. Taylor is also an extremely worrisome player for defensive coordinators because of how he can stretch the field. Taylor is an excellent runner and an excellent deep ball thrower. Watching him reminds me a bit of a less-explosive 2012 RGIII. It makes things almost impossible for a DC because you have to be able to stop the short pass, the long pass, the run game, the zone read, and the scramble plays. While there are not a ton of examples of this type of play being capable of sustainable success, it can definitely be unstoppable for a game or two here and there. Let's hope the Jets shut Taylor down again and this isn't one of those games.
Keys To Victory
Offense: The Bills have actually been really poor on defense this year. They can't rush the passer and they are mediocre in most other facets. Despite a roster that is loaded with talent, the team can't seem to produce. Just play balanced football and they should give you enough to put points on the scoreboard. Oh, and don't fumble any freaking kickoffs.
Defense: The Bills rely heavily on the run and play action pass. They love to set up deep balls by grinding out the run, and they're good at it. Lock down Sammy Watkins with Darrelle Revis and shut down the run with linebacker support. Make them beat you another way. They won't.
The Bottom Line
This is going to be a stressful game. Unless the Jets or Bills jump out to a 35-0 lead in the first half, I'm probably going to be riding on an emotional rollercoaster that is full of terrorists and is also on fire. The Jets need to win this game. The Bills just want to play spoiler. The Jets succeeded in that role consistently under Rex Ryan and now he's on the other side. This probably means more to Rex than any non-playoff-game-against-New-England that he's ever played. The Jets cannot start flat like last time. I'm expecting the Jets to win this game and end up in the #6 seed. I'm looking forward to having several more game previews to write this year.