Buffalo Bills (5-2) vs New York Jets (4-3)
Sunday, November 2 - 1:00 PM EST
Another week, another tough division battle. After blowing a golden opportunity to really control the division last week in Miami, our Bills get a chance to get in the divisional win column against the Jets inside the raucous Ralph. This is a crucial game in the context of the rest of the season; here are the keys to a big Bills win:
Get it going early: A fast start is something we're all hoping for, and Turk Schonert is striving for. The play calling needs to be a tad bit more unpredictable. The Jets are tough to run on (only 82.6 ypg), so being able to throw early will really give us a good chance to put some points on the board in the first half. However, we can't simply abandon the run, as the Miami game may suggest, but instead vary up the run calls. Enough with the numerous dives up the middle Turk, especially this week with big, fat Kris Jenkins and the force field that surrounds him taking on Duke Preston. We had success against Miami off tackle and outside, two places we've been asking for more runs all season. The Jets run the 3-4 just like Miami, so running outside away from Jenkins will be the way to get it done on the ground. Marshawn Lynch has had very few opportunities to run to the outside this year, but every time he does, he makes something happen. Why is this not a staple in the Offense? Also, don't be surprised to see some more no-huddle.
Force the action defensively: Going up against Brett Favre and the gunslinger mentality, this is the perfect week to implement a ton of press coverage on the Jets' wideouts. Favre absolutely LOVES throwing misguided passes into tight double coverage, so getting up on Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey will really increase the chances of getting some turnovers. If Fewell plays Jabari Greer, Terrence McGee and Ashton Youboty 10 yards off the ball again, Favre will feast on the quick slant this week. If teams like the Chiefs, Raiders and Bengals can play Favre tough, there's absolutely no reason we shouldn't be able to shut the Jets passing game down. But if we sit back and wait for him to make the mistakes, we will be in for a long afternoon. By the way, is there a better WR first name trio than Laveranues, Jerricho and Chansi in the NFL? I think not.
Win the turnover battle: Currently, the Bills turnover margin is sitting at -3, which is #23 in the NFL. Our 2 losses have produced a whopping -7 margin (8 giveaways, just 1 takeaway), though it is debatable whether those turnovers cost us those games as 7 of them came when we were already losing. They have obviously cost us chances to mount comebacks, but it's tough to say whether they are reasons we lost against Arizona and Miami. Either way, the offense has to take better control of the ball, while our defense needs to step up and start forcing some turnovers. We've only accumulated 4 ineterceptions on the season, with one coming in the last minute against Seattle. That just isn't good, and there's no better time to pick off a few passes than when Brett Favre rolls into town. This is one area that should really decide Sunday's winner.
Pressure Fav-ruh: Piggybacking the turnover idea, it's important to get into Favre's face and force him to throw when he's not ready. Again, if he has time to throw and space to put it, he'll hurt us. Getting after him with some blitzes will lead to his patented crazy throws, which should again increase the chance for turnovers. I'm not afraid of Coles and Cotchery beating us deep, so we've got to get up on them and make Favre squeeze the passes in there quickly. I'm not confident that this will be part of the game plan though.
Make Special Teams special again: This has been an overlooked area of the team this year. Quite frankly, the ST units have not lived up to their lofty expectations this year. They have been solid, but other than the Seattle game, have been very unspectacular. Kick coverage has been up and down, the punting unit has been mostly good but there have been mistakes (see snap last week) and the kick return team has been borderline bad. Leodis McKelvin just doesn't look like a good kick returner out there. He heads directly to the sideline EVERY time and rarely shows the propensity to cut back. Maybe Bobby April is instructing him to take what he can for now, until he gets more comfortable, but this unit has been far from explosive this year. McKelvin's instincts just haven't seemed to be there, we shall see what he develops into in the return game. This week would be a great time for a big play. Controlling Leon Washington in the return game is going to be another tough job for the Bills ST's this week.
Involve Evans early and often: Here's your weekly "get the ball to Lee Evans early in the game" key. With Josh Reed out, it's going to be as important as ever to get Evans involved early. Look for the Jets to really roll coverage to him this week, so Roscoe Parrish and James Hardy will need to step up. Roscoe wants the ball more, now is the time for him to take advantage of the opportunity.
Protect the home turf: To be honest, this is a game the Bills shouldn't lose, and probably can't afford to lose. Starting 0-2 in the division and heading to New England is NOT what the team needs come Monday morning. Like I thought the Chargers game might be, this game is a season definer, one that sets the stage for the rest of the year. A loss here with a tough game at New England next week is really not the downward spiral I want to see occur. If we win this week, to finish the first half 6-2, we will be in great shape going forward, but another divisional loss, at home no less, would really put a damper on where this team might be headed. Luckily, the rest of the AFC is a jumbled mess, but it'd be nice to rise above that quagmire. I'd much rather head to New England next week with 6 wins and at worse, a share of the divisional lead with them. I don't want to be a game back or in a 3 way tie including the Jets at 5-3. Rise up Buffalo, it's time you win a big game against a team with a winning record for once!
Let's go Bills, dispose of the New York Bretts! Make my daily life in NYC merrier!