Breaking Down the Jets vs the Bills
Two weeks was all it took, but the New York Jets ruined all of the goodwill and expectations of what looked to be a Super season as they have stumbled their way back into a three way tie for first place with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. The Jets still control their own destiny, but time is winding down and they find themselves with no margin for error as they face a do or die game with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in the Meadowlands. The Bills never recovered from their loss at home to the Jets weeks ago in Buffalo and have seen their season spiral out of control since then. They would like nothing more than to return the favor in NY and see the Jets season blow up right before their fans eyes.
Jets Defense vs. Bills Offense
Buffalo’s offense is in a complete funk managing just 6 points in the their last 2 games and being completely non competitive against any team not named the Kansas City Chiefs. Whether or not QB Trent Edwards was rushed back from a concussion too quickly is a matter of debate, but he has not been the same player he was early in the year. Edwards has looked like a player who has lost his confidence as he has become a turnover machine week in and week out in the offense. He is constantly under pressure from all angles as the Bills offensive line has been bad, especially on the right side of the line, but has to be looking forward to match up with a Jets defense that gives up easy completions and many yards to almost anybody who plays against them. Edwards missed last weeks game with a groin injury and the Bills were turn to the beyond awful JP Losman if Edwards is still too hurt to play. Losman has a strong arm and is more mobile than Edwards, but is wildly inaccurate, has no pocket presence, and there is a good chance he won’t be in the NFL next year. There is really nothing tricky about the Bills offense. They have one player who is a threat in WR Lee Evans. Take Evans away and the Bills lose their one major weapon they have. Evans is disgusted with the team and the offense right now. Josh Reed is a decent player, but he can not break open a game the way Evans can. He is your typical short over the middle type. RB Marshawn Lynch is the horse of the team and they try to run the offense through him, but he is an average player with limited potential. He is not a bruiser that can wear a team down nor does he make big plays out of the backfield. Fred Jackson replaces Lynch in certain situations and is a good receiver. The offensive line has taken a major step backwards and has not really clicked all season. The holdout of LT Jason Peters has probably hurt them more than they would want to let on The Bills are rarely going to beat a team by scoring 30 points a game. If this unit scores 20 it likely has had a great day.
Speaking of a funk, that stench coming from the swamps is the Jets defense. To say the team has been awful these last two weeks would be the understatement of the year. The players play on their heels and seem to anticipate nothing. The poor tackling of the last two years has once again reared its ugly head against Denver and San Francisco and that is looking to be a major problem for the team in these final three games. Even when things were bad before this year the team was playing smart fundamental football on this side of the ball. If a guy caught the ball he was immediately wrapped up and brought down. Now these same players are able to scamper for an extra few yards or to stretch out and get that first down to keep the chains moving. If that continues to happen this week, the Bills have players that can catch the ball on the run and turn a 12 yard throw into a 40 yard score. The Jets defense looks lost and poorly coached. Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins have been effectively removed from games with teams going to a fast paced spread offense that has ruined the defensive schemes. The secondary issues are well known. Other than Darrelle Revis nobody can cover anyone. Ty Law looks slow. Rookie Dwight Lowery is not very good. Even safety Kerry Rhodes, who made a fortune in the offseason, is a major disappointment. Rhodes is seemingly 25 yards away from the line on every play and almost a complete non-factor. None of the Jets linebackers work very well in coverage leaving the middle of the field wide open and the season in shambles. Right now everyone is pressing for answers.
The major question this week is what side of the ball is that much worse than the other one? Can the Bills offense that can not do anything put up points on the Jets or is the Bills offense so bad that even the Jets defense can limit them in the game? Buffalo attacked NY the last game via their tight ends and their runners and had success in that area. For most of the game they moved the ball up and down the field on the Jets, but the Jets forced turnovers which ended the day for Buffalo. The Jets need to go back and begin to create turnovers. The team simply does not have the talent to drop 8 and hope the opposition makes a mistake when there are at least two wide open players running around for the team. The Jets need to start to use Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas again and attack Edwards to force a mistake whether by fumble or interception. Pace and Shaun Ellis should be loaded on their side of the ball to attack that weak part of the Bills line, especially is Losman is playing and they need to use their corners in some type of blitzes again. If they fail to go after the QB and Edwards is healthy the result is more than likely going to be another 250+ game for a QB with a player like Reed catching 120 yards worth of passes.
Jets Offense vs. Bills Defense
The Bills defense has been pretty inconsistent the last few weeks, much of which is attributed to injuries and lack of depth to deal with those injuries. The early season strength of the defense was their run stoppers. Big DT Marcus Stroud sealed off the middle which allowed the teams defensive ends and linebackers to swarm to the outside and make impact hits. As the season has worn on they are no longer making the big stops behind the line for negative yards nor stuffing runners for short gains. More and more opposing backs are able to gain 3 or 4 yards every carry leaving 3rd and short situations leading to a high conversion percentage on third down. The team has very little luck attacking the QB and ranks way down in sacks in the NFL. They need to blitz their linebackers to hot the QB, but will hope to get a boost if DE Aaron Schobel, who usually plays very well against the Jets, returns from injury. Schobel has missed the last 8 games and may not want to risk further injury in a lost season. Terrence McGee leads the secondary and has had an up and down season. Teams are not afraid to throw on him and he only has two interceptions on the year. Jabari Greer, who returned a pick 6 against the Jets this year, may return to start at corner. If not Leodis McKelvin will play. McKelvin is learning the position, but is the one playmaker the defense has. The safeties are better in run support than they are in coverage. The linebackers sometimes have problems covering the opposition out of the backfield.
Nobody seems to understand what has happened to the Jets offense these last two games. For over three weeks the team looked like they had ironed out all the kinks in the system. The offensive line was dominant. Brett Favre never got touched. Thomas Jones was being sprung for 10 yards at a time. Linemen were blowing through their defensive counterparts and smacking linebackers. Now they again look overwhelmed having problems with blitzers and no longer being able to set the tone for the game. Are the Jets a passing offense? Are they a running offense? Do they throw deep or do they used timed patterns to pick defenses apart? These are the same questions the team was asking in week 5 and there is zero reason for the Jets to be asking these questions again in week 15, but that is the reality of the situation. The team is currently having major problems with their two big name WR’s in that neither can get off of the line if the opposition presses them at the line of scrimmage. It has completely thrown the offense off kilter these last two weeks and the Jets do not seem to have any answer for it. To combat the situation Favre is attempting to go deep down the field, but neither Coles nor Cotchery are able to get down the field fast enough and Favre’s arm does not look like it is capable of getting the ball to them even if they were open. Jones is the only consistent player on offense, but he has been used sparingly these last two weeks and the offense has suffered for it.
When these teams first met the Jets won the game by controlling the line and simply beating up the tired Bills players. They have to do the same this week. They have to get Jones the ball early to set the pace of the football game and they need their receivers to somehow be able to slip off a defender if he bumps them at the line. The better way to combat the coverage is to run the ball to keep the safety honest, and to try slipping receivers over the middle on short slants. As long as the teams outlook is run second the deep ball will never be there and the slants have more potential of picking up a first down than the buttonhook patterns that see a ton of balls being thrown at the feet of the receivers. If ever there was a time to get David Clowney active it is now. Even if the guy can not catch a football he brings speed that will at least need to be covered until he proves he is not an NFL talent. Having Brad Smith on the field is like playing 10 on 11. Clowney can not have any less of an impact than Smith can. It is imperative that the Jets score on their first possession. They seem to fall apart when they do not and a three and out to start the game is going to see an ugly reaction from the fans.
At least we know Leon hasn’t quit on the year. He nearly brought the Jets back to life in San Francisco if it wasn’t for a worthless holding call that killed his TD return. The rest of the special teams has been subpar the last two games. Terrible penalties. A horribly executed lateral. Mediocre coverage. The Jets are used to winning games on special teams, but lately they have nothing going on for them in this regard.
The Bills kick return game is the best part of their team. McKelvin is a dangerous kick return man averaging nearly 30 yards a pop while Roscoe Parrish is as good a punt returner as there is in the NFL. If the Jets are not careful, especially punting the football which has been a weak point, the Bills will do some damage in this area. The Bills punting game is also a weakness and should give Washington chances for a big play.
Buffalo has gone through rough times here. After two years of overachievement with this group, Dick Jauron had no ability to cope with expectations and completely lost his team along the way. The Bills are going to end up as a very ugly statistic about teams starting off with a near perfect record and not making the playoffs. With their hot start they should have been guaranteed a good chance in week 17, but instead have found themselves eliminated from the postseason with 3 games left to go. The team is openly questioning what they are doing, especially on offense, and making excuses about where they are playing and their circumstances. I’m not sure if Jauron can come back from this and it seems as if ownership is uncertain as well. He needs a big time performance from his team to get a new contract on Sunday.
Eric Mangini is in his own fight with expectations at this point as well. The Jets should have had the AFC East wrapped up in week 15 and instead find themselves in a dogfight where one more slip up probably sends the team home and leads to Jet fans calling for Mangini’s head on a platter. The team has looked unprepared for the two previous games and the staff just searching for answers. The gameplans offer no aggression on defense and the offense looks like a chicken running around with its head cut off more often than not. When things go bad the Jets just do not look like they have a clue. The grumblings have begun from the locker room that the coaching and preparation is a problem, something and that is not what a team in a playoff hunt should be complaining about if they want to win. If Mangini wants to ensure his return in 2009 he had best win this week. Another loss and the Jets could finish 8-8.
It was just six short weeks ago when the Jets used a game against the Buffalo Bills to springboard them into what seemed like elite status in the AFC. Prior to that game the Jets looked disinterested and lethargic coming off lackluster wins against the Bengals and Chiefs and a loss against the lowly Raiders. Nobody gave them any chance to win in Buffalo, a place where the team always has problems playing. But the Jets came out with a specific plan in mind, executed the plan and buried the Buffalo Bills. It seemed like the team was never going to look back, but reality has set in and here we all are six weeks later and we need history to repeat itself again. The Jets have come full circle and need to pull this one off and not look back again.
A loss to the Bills would be devastating. The Bills are playing terrible football and this would seriously impair the Jets lone tiebreaker advantage they have over New England which is the divisional record. Lose this game and the team needs serious help or the potential of a three way tie on December 28th if they want to win the division. The Jets can not take this team lightly. They have come into the Meadowlands and smacked the Jets around the last two years and Jauron looks to have had Mangini’s number more often than not.
The Jets need to realize the urgency of the situation or else this is going to be 2000 all over again where the team can not get one lousy win against a bad team to get into the playoffs and next thing you know you have an older QB throwing the ball all over a football field in desperation, even though it is realistically too late for anything to happen. The Jets have to hope Brett Favre still has some magic in that old arm of his. Favre has been a terrific December QB and never loses at home this time of year, but that was with Green Bay and this is with the Jets, whose history in December is not pretty. The Jets need Favre to find that magic in the worst way. Sadly he looks more like the Brett Favre that finishes years 8-8 and not the one that somehow found his way to 13-3 last year.
So what Jets team shows up in this game? The Jets that defeated the Patriots and Titans or the Jets team that lost to the 49’ers? The only way the Jets could lose to the 49’ers was by playing down to their level and not taking them out of the game early with two quick scores, which is exactly what happened. It was the same story against the Raiders and Chiefs and only once this year have the Jets come out and just blown this type of team out and that was against the Rams who quit on the 2008 season before the 2007 one even ended. Why should it be any different this weekend against Buffalo? If the Jets bring their “A game” this is a big win. Anything else and it won’t be pretty. Jets play down to the Bills in a total snoozefest and lose their grip on the East in yet another NYJ December collapse.
Jets 13 Bills 16