The Buffalo Bills are coming off of their worst loss of the season - a 27-11 home decision to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. The chief reason for Buffalo's struggles in that game? A Jets defense - dialed up by Ryan - that matches up well with any team in the league, and sufficiently flustered Buffalo to the point where Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn't counter until garbage time.
This week, Ryan will share his wisdom in stopping Buffalo's offense with his brother, Rob - who just happens to be the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Add in the fact that the Bills play the Jets once again in just over two weeks, and Buffalo will play a Ryan-coordinated defense in three games of a four-game run.
The real question, however, is just how important this factor will be to Sunday's outcome. That question doesn't even take into account the idea that Gailey, Fitzpatrick and Buffalo's still-potent offense will likely be sharper, and will likely be seeking redemption after last week's clunker of a performance.
As daunting as the idea of facing another Ryan defense is - those defenses are always aggressive, physical and difficult to game plan for - this week's Ryan doesn't have the embarrassment of riches that last week's Ryan does in terms of player talent, particularly in the secondary. Part of the reason the Jets were so effective (and will remain effective) defending Buffalo is their outstanding secondary; the Jets are holding opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 59.4 this season. Dallas has a solid secondary and a good defense, but quarterbacks have an 80.5 rating against them this year.
Dallas has some excellent players defensively, most notably outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who is widely regarded as the league's best pass rusher - and will give rookie left tackle Chris Hairston fits this Sunday. They also have a Top 10 (though not infallible) run defense. Dallas presents matchup issues for the Bills, but not nearly in the way the Jets did. The Jets are perfectly suited to disrupt the quick-rhythm timing of Buffalo's passing attack. Dallas is capable of that, too, but not nearly to the same degree.
It will be interesting to see how the Ryan family connection can be utilized to keep the Bills' offense under wraps. Knowing what we know about the Bills' resolve as a unit and the drop in back-seven defensive talent from the Jets to the Cowboys, it's tough to imagine the Bills not improving offensively this week. How much they will improve, however, remains to be seen.