The Buffalo Bills sit at 1-4 as they head to the Meadowlands to face the New York Jets this Sunday. If they have any plans of even contending for a playoff berth the final two months of the season, this is an absolute must win. We all know that it'll take more than a miracle for this season to turn around, but this is a game that the Bills can win if they come ready to play. The Jets are coming off back-to-back losses to the Saints and Dolphins, the latter running all over them last Monday night. If the Bills can channel some of that Miami success against the Jets this week, we could be in for a surprise, at least in the sense that they can compete with the Jets. Check out the following keys to a Bills victory:
Don't get abused along the Offensive Line: The Bills will be starting rookie Jamon Meredith, who was added off of the Packers' practice squad a few weeks ago, at right tackle this weekend. That's not exactly a recipe for success against an aggressive, complicated scheme that we'll see Rex Ryan's defense running. Look for the Bills to give as much help to Meredith as they can, and look for the Jets to really bring the heat against him. The Bills have to find a way to stabilize that side of the line this week. It doesn't get any easier for the interior of the OL with Kris Jenkins anchoring the Jets defensive line. Last season, the Bills, with Duke Preston at Center, did a nice job against Jenkins in the second meeting, rushing for 187 yards. It'll be imperative to open some holes early and pick up yardage on the ground if the Bills are to play well enough offensively to win. Demetrius Bell and Meredith will need to play extraordinarily with help from the TE's and RB's, and give Trent Edwards some time to throw.
Time for Edwards to put up, or sit down: Well, almost. Edwards has looked terrible, to be kind, of late. His struggles date back to the second half of last year and he shows no signs of snapping out of it. It'll be hard to win this week, or any week for that matter, with a QB playing with so little confidence and guts. There comes a time when a player playing so poorly needs to just say "screw it" and just let it all hang out. This is that time for Edwards. It's time for him to stop overanalyzing and overthinking every pass and start letting it rip. I expect him to take some shots downfield to Terrell Owens and Lee Evans this week, but he needs to do that more than once or twice. He has to get the ball downfield and start throwing it over the middle. If he continues to show he is incapable of doing that, we might see Ryan Fitzpatrick soon (*shudders*).
Ride Lynch and Jackson: One way to take pressure off of Edwards is to really base the offense around the running backs. It may be a good idea to hand it off 40 times this week, assuming the game can stay within reach, and take the ball completely out of Edwards' hands. The Jets have a middle of the road run defense so far this season, so they can be run on. If the OL can play solid football against the Jets 3-4 defense, the Bills might be able to move the chains and maybe find the end zone again.
Limit the mistakes: I'm looking at the offensive line here. A team simply cannot have 9 false start penalties and expect to win. This offense has lacked discipline and has made far too many mistakes, as we all know. It's time for the young guys to step up and cut the mistakes. There's no excuse for all these mental errors. Maybe the change from the no-huddle offense will settle some of these guys down.
Force Sanchez to win the game: The Jets will try to run all over the Bills' bottom feeding run defense. They should have plenty of success in that area this week, but if the Bills can slow their run game down some and force Mark Sanchez to make plays, they'll have a much better chance of springing the upset. If the Jets are able to grind out yards five at a time, and open up the play action passing game for Sanchez, the Bills are in trouble. The defense needs to force the Jets into 2nd and 3rd and longs, putting the ball in Sanchez's hands. With Jerricho Cotchery, and maybe Brad Smith, out this week, there won't be as many receiving options for him. I said something similar when the Bills were getting ready to face Miami and Chad Henne. It obviously didn't happen with the Dolphins running all over the Bills. Let's hope for something different this time.
Match the Jets' toughness: The Jets play physical, aggressive and tough football. The Bills routinely don't. It's time for the Bills to match or exceed their opponents toughness for once. It would be excellent if they were able to stick it to Ryan and his Jets. If the Bills come out flat, like they usually do, the Jets will ram the ball down their throats and control the game the whole day.
Watch out for Washington: Leon Washington seems to make a lot of big plays against the Bills. He has become a bigger part of the Jets offense this year, getting roughly 12-15 touches a game. With his big play ability, the Bills need to keep an eye on him and be ready for anything. I expect the Jets to utilize Washington on screen passes, draws and maybe even the occasional reverse or misdirection. Paul Posluszny and the Bills front seven needs to be ready for all of this when Washington is in the game.
Play better on Special Teams: Piggybacking on the previous key, the Bills absolutely must clamp down on Washington in the return game. Of course, this is assuming the Bills will actually be kicking off more than once, so we'll see if they even have to worry about him there. Besides kick coverage, it'd be nice if the Bills return units finally made a play. Roscoe Parrish is averaging 6 yards per punt return and 23 yards per kick return, which is pretty bad, especially compared to the Bills' return units of recent memory. If Parrish can hit a big one in the return game, it may just be the boost the Bills offense needs to get going. Or at the very least, put them in field goal range without them having to do anything!
Play with some urgency for once: I say this all the time. This team just shows no passion out there, and just looks resigned to their fate. They play defeated before they actually are defeated. I know this is unlikely to change until the entire culture is changed with this franchise, but the players can come out and play with their playoff lives (and jobs) on the line, right? If you're going to lose, fine, at least go down fighting.
It's hard to get up for a game like this knowing the season is basically shot and it'll be difficult for the Bills to win. No matter what, we're all going to watch and we're all going to root for the team to do well. Maybe they'll surprise us this week, and I suppose that's all we can really hope for at this point. Enjoy the game Bills fans!