The Buffalo Bills have had the New York Jets’ number over the past four years, with the Bills beating the Jets six out of the last eight times they’ve met.
If they want that record to become seven out of nine times, there are a few things they will have to do. Head coach Rex Ryan will get his team up for games like this (if no other) and will take care of trying to get under his old team’s skin, but the players on the Bills have bigger things to tackle than petty squabbles.
Here are three things the Bills have to focus on if they are to beat the Jets on Thursday night.
Win the battle at the line vs Jets defensive line
The Jets lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, but their defensive front assaulted quarterback Andy Dalton, sacking him seven times and pressuring him far more often.
Meanwhile, if Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor hadn’t been as mobile as he is, the Bills offensive line might have gotten their quarterback killed, as the Baltimore Ravens pass rush blasted through the line in a 13-7 loss.
The Bills have to do better. The task won’t be easy as Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon produced six of the seven sacks last week and are a fierce defensive line to contend with. The Jets also seem to have found a way to get pass rushing from the linebackers this year, with Lorenzo Mauldin and rookie Darron Lee playing well in the first game.
Yes, Taylor’s mobility will help negate that pass rush, but it won’t erase it. The Bills offensive line has to do more.
Find an alternative to Sammy Watkins
ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Watkins wants to play and “probably will” Thursday night, but that might not make a big difference if his foot—which he re-aggravated last Sunday—is bothering him. Maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal with a full week between games, but on three days “rest” we’re not so sure.
Even if Watkins was 100 percent healthy, the Bills need to find someone else to pick up the slack.
Teams are going to find ways to shut Watkins down. This week, he’ll probably see Darrelle Revis, and even if A.J. Green torched Revis last weekend, he’s still one of the better corners in the NFL. On top of that, you can bet that Jets head coach Todd Bowles will have a safety helping Revis more consistently this week.
Add the injury in, and there’s a strong chance Revis by himself could limit Watkins.
Whether Watkins is bottled up or not, Taylor is going to need someone else to throw to. Last week, he targeted Robert Woods five times (Woods caught four) but for just 20 yards. They need to get Woods, and tight end Charles Clay, more involved. With the pass rush likely to be coming early and often, Taylor might not have time to find Watkins open—he needs alternatives.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has only a 47 percent completion percentage in 11 games against Ryan defenses and has only won once out of nine games while a starter against them.
Fitzpatrick also has a 16:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio in those games.
Translation: Rex Ryan has Fitzpatrick’s number.
You can expect a lot of different looks from the Jets offense, and a lot of running back Matt Forte as well, but however the Jets lineup, Ryan is going to have to continue to do what he does really well—pressure and rattle Fitzpatrick.
Given how the Jets were able to bring pressure last week, and given how well the Bills defense played against the Ravens, this will probably end up a defensive battle. The team that makes the one big play on offense will win and by continuing to attack and hit Fitzpatrick, Ryan can make sure that team won’t be the Jets.