In what seems like the first relevant game between the division rivals in years, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will meet Sunday afternoon. While the Jets look to pick up their first road win of the season, the Bills will try and stay undefeated at home, winning four games at Ralph Wilson Stadium this year.
The Bills (5-2) are atop the AFC East through just under half of the season behind much-improved play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson. The Bills came out to a strong 3-0 start with key victories over the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, both teams that the Jets have lost to.
Fred Jackson’s 103 yards-per-game average is second best in the league and his 721 yards rushing are fourth. The Jets have struggled to stop the run this season and it would be no surprise if that continued Sunday. On the other hand, the pass defense has been impeccable with Darrelle Revis leading the way as the early 2011 Defensive Player of the Year favorite.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just signed a long-term extension with the Bills, has finally proved he is the starting quarterback in Buffalo. But expect a road bump in the season for him this Sunday, as he admitted himself earlier this week that you never know where the pressure will be coming from when you play the Jets.
You can count on Rex Ryan sending that pressure early and often to try and rattle Fitzpatrick and force him to make mistakes. But the Harvard graduate has been very accurate this season with a 67.7 completion percentage and just seven interceptions compared to twice as many (14) touchdowns.
After a shockingly strong start from the Bills defense this season, they have regressed and aren’t seeing consistent success against either the pass or the run. But there is no doubt that the unit is confident after almost toying with the Washington Redskins last weekend. They were able to hold the Skins to 26 yards rushing on 11 attempts and pick off John Beck twice in a 23-0 shutout.
Expect Mark Sanchez to capitalize against the Bills secondary and finally get star receiver Santonio Holmes more involved in the offense. After a vow from Rex Ryan to return to the ground-and-pound a few weeks ago, the Jets have seen increased success on offense and pulled off big wins against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, with Plaxico Burress pulling in three touchdowns in the latter game.
The change has resulted in Shonn Greene’s emergence, finally stitchingtogether some good games after taking over as the feature back to start this season. The passing game has opened up as well and Mark Sanchez is on pace to have his best season in the NFL by a significant margin.
For the first time in a long time, the Jets are traveling to Buffalo to face a team that can pose a legitimate challenge. If Gang Green wants to stay on the right track and compete for the AFC East title this year, this could be considered a must-win game. Anticipate a closely-fought battle between the Jets and Bills, starting at 1:00pm ET Sunday.
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