Ready for some football…eh?
Toronto’s Rogers Centre is a stage better accustomed to 90-foot basepaths and 96 mile-per-hour fastballs from Blue Jay’s ace Roy Halladay. This week, the arena formerly known as Skydome will play host to one of the biggest gridiron matches of the year.
Given new life in the AFC playoff race following a victory over the Panthers and a slew of losses by conference opponents, the Jets have renewed hope and purpose as they travel north of the border Thursday night for a rematch with the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo is an entirely different team than the squad the Jets faced back in Week 6. Since the firing of Dick Jauron three weeks ago, the Bills have played inspired football under interim head coach Perry Fewell. The defensive coordinator has appeared to light a fire under this fading, uninspired team, which lost a tough game to Jacksonville two weeks ago and is coming off an emphatic victory over the Miami Dolphins last week. Fewell’s fiery, impetuous demeanor seems to be exactly what the Bills needed, in comparison to Jauron’s laid-back, subdued style. Unlike Jauron, Fewell isn’t afraid to step on toes or get in his face of his players.
Fewell’s first act of duty as head coach was naming Ryan Fitzpatrick starting quarterback, a move which has paid immediate dividends. In his two games as starter, Fitzpatrick has passed for 543 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he has been able to get the ball to star receiver Terrell Owens, who has caught 14 balls for 293 yards with two touchdowns. Prior to the moves at head coach and quarterback, Owens had struggled mightily, posting only 26 receptions and one touchdown through 10 games.
With that being said, the ultimate key to the game for the Jets will be CB Darrelle Revis. Revis has put together a standout season, shutting down the likes of Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Randy Moss, Steve Smith. Owens name was added to that list in Week 6, when the third-year corner limited the five-time All-Pro receiver to three receptions for 13 yards. It is safe to say Revis will more than be up to handle the task at-hand on Thursday.
“He is strong,” said Revis, when discussing the matchup on Monday. “He’s very different from Randy Moss. Randy is tall and a little bit lanky. Terrell Owens is tall, fast and strong, and he’s a little thicker. He’s about 230 (lbs.). He has a lot of explosion in his game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the key for the Jets will be sticking to the running game and the cautious gameplan they executed so eloquently against Carolina. Last week, the Jets ran the ball 39 times combined to their 18 attempts through the air.
This conservative approach bodes well against the Bills, who have excelled in forcing turnovers this season. Buffalo is third in the NFL in takeaways (25) with 21 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles. (Though those numbers may be a bit inflated considering the Jets turned the ball over six times against Buffalo in Week 6)
Darrelle Revis rises to the occasion once again, putting the clamps on T.O. The Jets defense has another strong performance and is able to effectively infiltrate Buffalo’s banged-up offensive line with relative ease. But the ultimate difference will be the conservative offensive gameplan in regards to Sanchez. The rookie plays another solid game, relying on his ground attack and a few plays from Braylon Edwards to carry the offense: Jets 21, Bills 10
Thursday will mark the 98th meeting between the two teams, who have played twice every regular season since 1960 (except for the strike-shortened season of 1982).
Buffalo leads the all-time series 53-44, and is 13-12 in the last 25 meetings, dating back to 1997. The Bills will be going for their third season-sweep of the Jets on Thursday.
Last time they met…
The Jets lost an ugly, 16-13 game in overtime at the Meadowlands on Oct. 18. In that game, the Jets were killed by a career-high five interceptions by Mark Sanchez. Gang Green blew a 10-0 halftime lead, and wasted a franchise-record 210 rushing yards by Thomas Jones. The loss was in many ways, the low-point of the Jets season. Adding insult to injury, DT Kris Jenkins went down in the second quarter of the game with a knee injury, which would turn out to be season-ending.
Thursday night shortcomings
Historically, the Jets have struggled in mid-week affairs, posting an all-time record of 4-6 on Thursday and 1-3 on Thursday night. Gang Green’s lone Thursday night victory came last season, when Brett Favre and company traveled up to Foxboro and defeated the New England Patriots, 34-31 in OT.
The Jets will most likely be thin in the secondary for the second-straight game. Corners Dwight Lowery (ankle) and Donald Strickland (concussion) haven’t practiced all week and are not expected to go on Thursday. After being limited in practice on Monday, OT D’ Brickashaw Ferguson (hamstring) and QB Mark Sanchez (knee) will both start.
For Buffalo, OT Demetrius Bell (knee), DT John McCargo, and CB Ashton Youboty have missed practice time this week and are not expected to play. S Jairus Byrd (groin) and CB Terrence McGee (knee) have been limited this week but are more than likely to play. Byrd picked off Mark Sanchez twice in Buffalo’s Week 6 victory at the Meadowlands.
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