Buffalo Bills (5-2) vs New York Jets (4-3)
SB Nation's Jets coverage: Gang Green Nation
Coming off of an embarrassing road loss to Miami, the Buffalo Bills will look to rebound in just about three days' time in a home matchup with the equally hated New York Jets. Naturally, we did our best this week to talk about the Jets with a Jets blogger - and our best was better than usual this week. Not only will we be chatting extensively with Gang Green Nation over the next few days, we hope to also have insight from more "traditional" Jets experts, as well. We'll start with GGN, however.
I'm pleased to point out that I was very graciously approached for my opinion on the upcoming matchup by The Fifth Down, a blog by The New York Times. I, along with two other Bills bloggers, was asked for 100 words on the upcoming matchup. I predicted a Bills win, 23-17. I'll get into reasons why over the next few days.
What's embarrassing, however, is the lack of confidence that the other three bloggers showed in their respective teams. Where the hell is the fan pride, people? Two Bills fans picked the Jets. The Jets blogger - who doubles as a staff writer for the Times - picked the Bills. Trust me, we're thrilled to be associated with the Times, but the lack of "homerism", as it's so frequently put these days, is embarrassing. At least one of us is keepin' it real. I don't get to say that too often.
We'll start the blogging here with a Q&A with John Butchko of SB Nation's baby NFL blog, Gangrene Gang Green Nation. (Whoops. Not a blog about infection, though it's close... I kid, I kid. But yeah, the Jets suck. And hey, I've handled enough "Buffalo Rumblings" jokes to not feel bad about poking fun at the blog name. It's quality, not the name of the blog, that counts.) I asked John - a heck of a nice guy - a few questions, and as is his M.O., he provided some pretty detailed answers. On to the interview...
Rumblings: How much patience do Jets fans have with Brett Favre? When he throws untimely picks - against the Chiefs, no less - do you think "Hey, it's just Favre being Favre" or "Gosh, you know, I really wish he'd cut that crap out"?
GGN: The two are not mutually exclusive. Any Jets fan who has followed football in the last two decades knew what the team was getting in Favre. He is a guy who will make unbelievable plays like his fourth down prayer in Miami in Week 1. He also has no qualms about throwing into double coverage to try and make a play. Even though we all know of this tendency, it is still frustrating, and fans are growing weary.
I was at the game last week, and boos rained from the stands in the second half. Nobody seemed satisfied in the stadium even after the comeback against Kansas City. Frankly he has looked more like the below average quarterback the Packers had in 2005 and 2006 than the Pro Bowler of 2007. Jets fans are impatient, and his play over the past few weeks has not endeared Brett to them. Of course, if he plays a great game this Sunday, he will immediately fall back into the good graces of the fickle fans we have.
Rumblings: Give us the low down on the Jets' defense this season. No AFC East team has given up more points than the Jets; what are the strengths/weaknesses of this unit?
GGN: The fact that the Jets have given up more points than any other team in the division is a bit deceiving. A lot of those numbers can be attributed to the first half of the San Diego game, when the offense could not stop turning it over and giving the Chargers a short field and the second half of the Arizona game, in which the Jets got very conservative with a big lead and gave up a million yards through the air.
The rushing defense has been stellar this year. Pretty much all of the credit goes to Kris Jenkins, the new nose tackle. In the 3-4, everything radiates from the middle of the line. His predecessor, Dewayne Robertson, played with no leverage and could never hold the point of attack. This allowed linemen to consistently hit the second level and forced the linebackers to deal with blocks. Jenkins has kept the linebackers clean this year and consistently gotten a push upfield, which has made it difficult to run on the Jets.
The Jets also have gone from having one of the worst pass rushes in the league to one of the best. Calvin Pace has been a substantial upgrade over Victor Hobson at outside linebacker. Bryan Thomas has returned from a vacation in 2007 (at least it seems like a vacation for how often he made an impact play). Pace has probably helped Thomas because Pace's size allows him to handle the strong side, and Thomas operates better in less traffic, where he can utilize his athleticism. The amazing thing about the pass rush being this good is how little the team has gotten out of Vernon Gholston, a top ten pick whose forte was supposed to be getting after the quarterback.
The secondary is the big weakness on the roster. Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes both could be future perennial Pro Bowlers. Dwight Lowery has done nice work as a rookie. The coaching staff loves his instincts. Past that, things are shaky. Eric Smith is less than stellar in coverage at safety, and he will miss Sunday's game. Abram Elam is probably starting in his place. Elam was a starter for much of last season and seemed to make a catastrophic error every game. Bills fans may remember how he crashed into Darrelle Revis and helped your team score a decisive touchdown in the 2007 meeting at the Meadowlands. The other corners, Drew Coleman and Hank Poteat, can easily be exploited by a team with good receiver depth.
Rumblings: This is Eric Mangini's third year on the job, and he orchestrated some pretty bold moves to get the Jets back into contention. Is it "playoffs or bust" for Mangini, or is he squarely off of the hot seat in New York?
GGN: When the Jets hired Mangini, his resume was so thin that the team knew it was a long term deal. He was going to suffer growing pains even if he did become a good head coach. The Jets are building this thing for the long haul. The average fan might look at all of the big moves the Jets made in the offseason and say, "That team is going for it now," but that really is not the case when one actually examines the situation. There were five big moves. Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace are on the right side of 30. Alan Faneca is 31, but a lot of guards play well into their mid-30s. Damien Woody was never signed to be a long-term solution at right tackle, only a stopgap. His contract is not prohibitive at all. The team can easily and cheaply dump him in two years if a better guy comes along.
Brett Favre was brought in to stabilize the quarterbacking situation. The coaching staff would not have done that had it felt comfortable with Kellen Clemens. In one to two years, the Jets will need to find their Trent Edwards. Maybe it will be either Erik Ainge or Brett Ratliff, the two rookies on the roster. If they do find their quarterback, they will be set up to be competitive for a long time because they have built a great foundation of young talent through the Draft. If they cannot find a quarterback, they will be like almost any other team in the league experiencing problems with the position. Favre was brought in as much to buy this regime time to address the position as he was to win this year.
It is also worth noting how good the general manager Mike Tannenbaum is at working the salary cap. When he took over after the 2005 season, the Jets were coming off a 4-12 season and were $30 million over the cap. A year later, the Jets were 10-6 and had $30 million in excess cap room with 21 of 22 starters signed. In a lesser role, he designed the poison pill contract that got the team Curtis Martin in 1998. Even if this offseason's expenditures prove costly to the team's cap position, Tannenbaum has shown he can stealthly renegotiate deals to get a team out of cap hell without really hurting the talent level. He can find the loopholes in the system to make it work.