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Bills vs. Jets Week 9 tilt could resuscitate a long-dormant rivalry

If you’re trying to remember the last relevant Bills-Jets game, start in the late ‘90s

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It has been quite some time since the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets could be considered rivals.

The 2015 and 2016 seasons may be the most recent example of a Bills-Jets rivalry. The teams played a trio of one-score games in those two years, while the Bills were coached by ex-Jets head man Rex Ryan—who certainly cherished defeating his former team. But even that stretch is not a shining example of a true rivalry, as neither team made the postseason in either year—Buffalo didn’t even finish above .500—and Ryan was fired mid-way through his second season as Bills head coach.

The Bills and Jets have rarely been competitive enough simultaneously for their annual pair of matchups to be considered more than important intra-divisional fare. Buffalo ended a 17-season playoff drought in 2017, and the Jets are currently mired in an 11-season postseason drought of their own.

Indeed, the last time both the Bills and the Jets made the AFC playoffs in the same season was 1998—when Buffalo bowed out to the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round (you may remember that game for wide receiver Eric Moulds’s 240-yard receiving effort), while the Bill Parcells-led Jets lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

It’s looking quite possible, however, that both Buffalo and New York will make the playoffs this year, ending that 24-year window. Heading into a Week 9 game against each other, the 6-1 Bills will look to maintain a firm grip on their AFC East lead (and win their fifth straight game) on the road against the upstart 5-3 Jets, who have already snapped off a four-game winning streak this season themselves.

The Bills have well-documented, well-earned Super Bowl aspirations, but this game will be an opportunity for the Jets to prove that they are ironclad contenders in a very strong AFC field. It will also be an opportunity for them to gain back some ground lost over the past five years in the Bills-Jets series, going back to when Sean McDermott took over as Buffalo’s head coach.

McDermott’s Bills were 7-3 against the Jets in his first five seasons on the job. One of those losses came in Week 17 of the 2019 season, when Buffalo was resting their starters in advance of a Wild Card playoff game in Houston. That’s the only loss to the Jets the Bills have had since the recent three-season playoff streak began in 2019; Buffalo has won their last four games against the Jets by an average final score of 29-14.

Those Jets were not these Jets, however. These Jets have already won more regular-season games than any Jets team since 2019, and they’re not even halfway through the year. These Jets are arguably the most talented up-and-coming team in the league, featuring bona fide budding stars all across their roster. There are deficiencies, to be sure—starting perhaps under center, where second-year quarterback Zach Wilson is still finding his way, to put it kindly—but this is a tough and talented team that can run the ball and play sound defense.

For the first time in a quarter-century, a Bills-Jets game means something. Both teams will be out for much more than bragging rights when they face off this coming Sunday at MetLife Stadium.