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Game Preview: Jets (5-4) at Bills (3-7)

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Did the Jets lose in their bye week? You better hope so, because based on their tormenting win-one-lose-one season so far, a loss last week almost guarantees a victory on Sunday.

The Jets (5-4) currently the most surprising team in the league head to Orchard Park, Buffalo on Sunday (1pm ET KO) to face a Bills team that has lost three straight games.

Th two teams have already met once this season: the Jets defeated the Bills 27-20 in week three. However, each team has taken a different path since that first meeting. The Jets defeated both the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots and developed into a legitimate playoff contender, whereas the Bills lost their starting quarterback for the better part of a month and currently sit at the bottom of the AFC East. Their quarterback, EJ Manuel, finally returned to the field on Sunday, but the Bills’ fortunes didn’t improve — they lost 23-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Since 1960, the two teams have met 106 times. The Bills currently lead the series 55-51, but in the Rex Ryan era the Jets are 7-2.

Here are Sunday’s keys to the game:

Follow the Formula:
The Jets got back to Rex Ryan’s favorite style of Football in their victory over the Saints. They ran the football, and played stifling defense — Chris Ivory rushed for 139 yards, and the defense held the potent Saints offense to 20 points, and 36 rushing yards. The game-plan was developed to take the pressure away from Geno Smith, who has struggled the previous week against the Bengals, throwing two interceptions for touchdowns. The Bills defense has given up an average of 117-yards rushing a game, so it would be smart for the Jets to continue to lean heavily on Chris Ivory and the running game.

Take Shots
Although it might seem like the antithesis of running the football, the Jets need to take shots down field against the Bills. At the start of the season Geno Smith brought excitement to the Jets offense with his deep ball. However, since he lost the majority of his top offensive weapons — Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland — to injury, Smith has understandably struggled. On Sunday, Smith will have his full myriad of weapons back — all except Kerley are expected to play — and when the opportunity presents itself Smith needs to use his weapons to piggy back off the running game and take his chances down field. In their previous match-up the Jets had a lot of success with the deep ball. Smith completed touchdown passes of 69 and 51 yards to Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill.

Control the Line of Scrimmage
In their first meeting the Jets defensive front dominated the Bills. They sacked EJ Manuel 8 times and had pressured him on 50% of his dropbacks. The Jets need to do more of the same on Sunday. This will only be Manuel’s sixth career start due to the time he spent away with a knee injury so he is still likely to fall victim to the pitfalls of being a rookie quarterback in the NFL.

Manuel will also be without his top two wide receivers as Stevie Johnson and James Woods have been ruled out for the game. In their absence the Bills will likely depend on running backs CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson to carry the load for them, which plays directly into the Jets hands — the defense has only allowed 3.1 yards per carry this season. The formula on defense is simple, control the line of scrimmage, and the rest will take care of itself.

On the surface, this looks like a likely victory for a Jets team that are surprising everyone. However, the Jets have followed each of their wins so far with a loss. If they are to become legitimate playoff contenders they need to break that trend this week. The Jets currently hold the 6th playoff spot outright, and with the other teams in the AFC struggling with mediocrity they have a chance to pull away from the pack with a victory over the Bills.

Prediction: Jets 35 – Bills 13


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