AFC East rivals are set to clash in Toronto on Thursday night, as the Bills prepare to play their second game in a five-game series at Rogers Centre. The last trip north of the border didn’t fare very well for Buffalo, as the Bills were easily handled by the Miami Dolphins 16-3. Here’s hoping the Bills’ second trip to Toronto works out much better.
Earlier this season when these two teams exchanged pleasantries, the Bills pulled out a 16-13 overtime victory thanks to Rian Lindell’s 47-yard field goal with 2:49 left to go in overtime. The Jets lost despite having a tremendously huge statistical edge. New York outgained Buffalo 414-296. The Bills had arguably their worst game on defense, giving up 318 yards on the ground. Jets running back Thomas Jones set a franchise record with 210 yards rushing on 22 carries. In the second quarter alone, Jones rushed for 135 yards including a 71-yard touchdown run. Leon Washington nearly joined Jones in the 100-yard club on the day, rushing for 99 yards.
But as big a reason as Lindell was for Buffalo winning the game, Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez shoulders certainly helped the Bills out. Sanchez had a miserable day passing, completing just 10 of 29 passes for 119 yards and a whopping five interceptions. He finished the afternoon with a quarterback rating of 8.3. Buffalo collected six interceptions in all and since then the Jets haven’t been able to mind the magic they had at the beginning of the season when they started 3-0. The Jets are 2-3 since losing to the Bills and their playoff hopes are on life support.
Buffalo will look somewhat differently the second time around, with Perry Fewell now at the helm. Fewell replaced Dick Jauron as the Bills’ head coach two weeks ago in Jacksonville, and last week he recorded his first ever victory as a head coach against Miami, 31-14. For the first time since their win over Tampa Bay in Week 2, the Bills finally gave their fans reason to celebrate. Buffalo blasted Miami with 24 points in the fourth quarter, including a 51-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Terrell Owens. It seems as though Fitzpatrick and Owens have sparked one another the past two weeks. The duo has hooked up for two touchdowns in as many weeks, breathing life into what’s been an otherwise lifeless offense.
Whether or not there’s still enough time for the Jets to collect themselves and seriously push for a coveted wild card berth remains to be seen, however, chances are they’ll sink or swim on the arm of Sanchez. The Bills defense hasn’t changed much since the previous meeting, but with four more interceptions last week against Miami, Sanchez could be facing a similar miserable outing against the Bills defense that boasts 25 takeaways, good for third in the NFL. Sanchez has continued to struggle, throwing seven interceptions to only two touchdowns in New York’s last three contests. Sanchez is fourth among quarterbacks this season with 17 interceptions.
What the Bills should do: Stay aggressive. It’s worked the past two games, so here’s hoping Perry Fewell doesn’t allow the Bills to revert back to their conservative, close-to-the-vest ways. The last time the defense registered six interceptions, five from Mark Sanchez. The best recipe for rattling a young, inexperience signal caller is get in his face and knock him on his rear early and often.
What the Jets should do: Run, run and run. I know, I know it sounds like a broken record by now, but the Bills’ run defense hasn’t improved much or at all since the last time these two teams met. Thomas Jones nearly won the game by himself, rushing for 210 yards while New York rushed for 318 yards as a team. With Sanchez struggling, look for the Jets to try to establish their rushing attack early on to relieve Sanchez.
Prediction: Jets 24, Bills 23. Something tells me the Rex Ryan has been preaching revenge all week and I fully expect New York won’t give this game away to the Bills like the previous meeting. I believe that the Jets absolutely need this game more. Lose this game and the rest of the month they’ll be talking about next year in the Big Apple. Look for a rejuvenated Jets defense to be the difference in the game.