Jets LB Jonantan Vilma will be looking to shut Bills RB's Wills McGahee's mouth this Sunday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Last time the Jets and Bills met, Buffalo dominated. Quarterback J.P. Losman threw for 328 yards and running back Willis McGahee had 150 yards on the ground as the Bills had 219 more yards of total offense than the Jets. However, a couple of big turnovers including a 32-yard fumble return by linebacker Victor Hobson allowed the Jets to edge the Bills in the only category that matters as the Jets escaped Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 28-20 Week 3 victory. Now it is the Jets turn to play host as the Bills come into town for a Week 14 match-up that could have big playoff implications for New York.
The Jets are in the midst of the AFC wild card hunt, battling Jacksonville, Denver, Cincinnati, and Kansas City for one of two playoff spots, with all five teams sitting at 7-5 on the season. The Jets have by far the easiest remaining schedule out of the five teams, but must take care of business starting with Sunday’s showdown with the Bills.
“You can’t start looking down the road, we have to take it one game at a time,” head coach Eric Mangini said this week. “When you lose sight of the game at hand, that’s when you let a game slip away.”
The Jets better be focused for this week’s division game as they cannot afford Buffalo’s offense to run rampant as it did last time the two teams met. If it were not for a couple big mistakes by the inexperienced Losman, Gang Green would have been leaving Buffalo with a loss that could have changed the whole complexion of their season. It is crucial that they avoid such a loss this weekend.
It will start with the run defense which will have to find a way to contain the explosive McGahee. Gang Green’s ability to stop the run has been suspect all season but the defense has come up with some big games, including Week 12 when they held the Texans to just 25 yards on the ground. If captain Jonathan Vilma and company can put on a performance like that this week, it will be very tough for the Bills to move the ball.
Losman is not the type of quarterback that is capable of winning a game by himself, a la Brett Favre who the Jets beat last week. If the Bills offense is reliant on Losman on the passing game, they will be in trouble. The third-year signal-caller has a QB rating of just 82 on the season and his touchdown to interception ratio is 12 to 10, leaving a lot to be desired.
One part of the Jets game that has improved drastically since Week 3 is their own ground attack. After struggling to find a rhythm with the carousel of backs Kevan Barlow, Leon Washington, and Cedric Houston, the Jets seem to have found something since the bye week as their rushing numbers have been much improved. The Jets have had contributions from all three backs as well. Houston had a big game against Green Bay last week, rushing for 105 yards with two touchdowns, while Washington has a pair of 100-yard games himself, and although Barlow did not receive any carries last week, he was instrumental in the Jets big road-win against the rival Patriots in Week 10 as he ran for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Gang Green will also be hoping quarterback Chad Pennington can continue his recent hot streak. While Pennington has certainly had his ups and downs this season in returning from his second should surgery, he has been nothing short of spectacular the last two games. If he can duplicate those efforts Sunday with help from receivers like wide outs Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, and tight end Chris Baker, Buffalo will be in for a long afternoon. Any chemistry this group may have lost for a while has certainly returned in the games against Houston and Green Bay.
However, the most important aspect of the game for the Jets will be focus. It is an area they have been great in of late, as evidenced by just four penalties for 25 yards in the last two games. This could definitely be a trap game for the Jets, but they must not overlook 5-7 Buffalo. Crazy things can happen in divisional games but if the Jets can come out with a win, Mangini and company have to like their chances with just three games remaining against bottom-feeders Minnesota, Miami, and Oakland after this week.
-Although McGahee is listed as questionable for this week’s game with an ankle injury, don’t count on him missing the game. If he is unable to go, look for former Bears RB Anthony Thomas to get the carries.
-McGahee made headlines and bulletin board material in the Jets locker room this week when he declared he “owned” former Miami teammate and current Jets LB Jonathan Vilma. The comment was likely a friendly dig as the two are close. However, with an average of over 150 rushing yards per game against the Jets, McGahee’s comments aren’t outrageous. On Thursday, Vilma answered McGahee’s comments.
“Tell Willis that’s cute, that’s really cute,” Vilma laughed. “And tell him when he gets Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he gets to the Pro Bowl, and he gets to the playoffs, then we can talk.”
-As if Pennington and company needed any help in the passing game, Buffalo comes into Sunday with a banged up secondary. Safety Dante Whitner and cornerback/kick returner Terrence McGee are both listed as questionable.
-The Jets have to be pleased that their road game against Buffalo came before December this year. The forecast in East Rutherford this weekend is 50 degrees with sunny skies, a far cry from the often frigid temperatures of Buffalo in the winter.
New York Jets
-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Questionable
-DB Eric Smith (Foot): Questionable
-LB Bryan Thomas (Shoulder): Questionable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-CB Andre Dyson (Thigh): Probable
-DL Shaun Ellis (Ankle): Probable
-RB Cedric Houston (Knee): Probable
-WR Justin McCareins (Foot): Probable
-DL Rashad Moore (Hand): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-WR Brad Smith (Shoulder): Probable
-S Rashad Washington (Illness): Probable
-LB Angelo Crowell (Fibula): Out – Placed on IR
-LB John DiGiorgio (Ankle): Questionable
-RB Willis McGahee (Ankle): Questionable
-CB Terrence McGee (Ankle): Questionable
-S Donte Whitner (Hamstring): Questionable
Please note: Due to the NFL’s new Flex Scheduling this game which was originally scheduled for 1PM is now at 4:15 PM. Local TV on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!