By Bob Bonett
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
October 26th, 2007
With all of the controversy surrounding the injury of LB Jonathan Vilma, QB Chad Pennington’s situation, and the refusal of head coach Eric Mangini to give any leeway as to the status of his players for Sunday’s game, it seems as if Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills has become an afterthought.
Believe it or not, though, Sunday’s game may be the most important of the season. Yes, they are 1-6, and would virtually need to win out, or at least go the rest of the season with only one loss to make the playoffs.
Doing so is not entirely out of the realm of possibility for Gang Green, though. New Yorkers should know best, too. The tri-state area witnessed such a turnaround in 2002 when Pennington took over the helm from an aging Vinny Testaverde and improbably brought the Jets from 1-4 to the postseason.
Then, last year, the team Mangini shares his home stadium with, the Giants, took the opposite approach, nose-diving the second half of the season to the tune of a 2-6 record, nearly missing the playoffs after asserting themselves as a true Super Bowl contender the first half of the year.
So for the next 72 hours, fans need to forget about any type of quarterback controversy, ignore the fact that Jonathan Vilma’s knee may be bruised or may be severely damaged, and forget about the stubbornness of Mangini. Their team is actually still in the playoff race, in desperate need of a victory over the Trent Edwards-led Buffalo Bills.
Nobody can forget what happened the last time these two played. Fresh off their initial win of the season, with the prospects of moving to .500 overall and 2-1 in the division, the Jets failed to execute against a very mediocre Buffalo offense, falling 17-14 to a quarterback nobody had ever heard of.
It turns out that mystery quarterback wasn’t half bad, though. Since the victory, he brought the Bills within one point of a victory over arguably the NFC’s best team, the Cowboys, and led them to a five-point win over the heavily favored Baltimore Ravens.
Thus, Sunday is an opportunity for the Jets to try to start a run on the right foot. With a win, New York would have an opportunity to enter the bye week at 3-6, not necessarily in the best situation to make the playoffs, but still enough room to give them a chance to make a run.
To get that much-needed win, though, Mangini will need to do some serious coaching. Last week against the Bengals, the team looked undisciplined, outplaying an inferior team, but still falling due to a lack of intangibles.
The two weeks prior, the same thing happened. New York was fed a win on a silver platter, but sloppy, slipshod play forced them to drop each game.
Playing Monday Morning Quarterback and pinpointing games as contests teams “should have won” is, of course, the golden no-no in football. However, whether pessimists want to admit it or not, this team has had the propensity to actually be better than .500. With the exception of the opening week loss to the Patriots, no team has managed to overmatch the Jets, instead cashing in on mistakes by Gang Green.
Thus, if Mangini can coach the Jets to play a complete game, get the defensive front to play disciplined and anticipate the run, convince the secondary to avoid making penalties in the most inopportune times, and stick with an offense that manifests itself off the run, New York could be looking at a 2-6 record, something a proven winner such as Pennington could actually deliver a playoff rush from.
BILLS OFFENSE v JETS DEFENSE
Offensively, the Bills have not been overwhelmingly impressive at all. Edwards hasn’t thrown for over 200 yards since the victory against the Jets, RB Marshawn Lynch hasn’t even sniffed 100 yards yet, and star WR Lee Evans still hasn’t managed to string together a pair of breakout contests.
The key to the Jets minimizing the Bills’ offensive attack will lie in NT Dewayne Robertson, the team’s best pass rusher, and LB David Harris, their best run stopper. Robertson hasn’t tapped into his pass rush potential, being overmatched at the nose tackle, while Harris hasn’t had an ample opportunity to showcase his run-stopping strengths. If these two can step up, the Gang Green secondary will be pressured much less, and Buffalo may be limited to less than three touchdowns.
JETS OFFENSE v BILLS DEFENSE
Opponents, with the exception of the Jets, have run all over and passed all over the Bills’ ‘D’ this year. They are allowing over 400 yards of offense per game, including 133 on the ground.
For the Jets to exploit this, they will have to entrust RB Thomas Jones with the ball. If he gets more than 25 carries, and has an opportunity to wear down the Bills defensive front sevem, then the pass will be set up, and Pennington could lead the team to the end zone on multiple occasions.
JETS SPECIAL TEAMS v BILS SPECIAL TEAMS
As great as KR Leon Washington has been, and despite the flashes of brilliance P Ben Graham and K Mike Nugent have shown, the Bills have been equally impressive, with much more consistency.
KR Terrence McGee is averaging nearly 30 yards per return, Ryan Lindell has performed serviceably as a kicker, and P Brian Moorman’s net average is over 40 yards. Coordinator Mike Westhoff will have his hands full this week.
The key to this game will be between the ears of Mangini and Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron.
Jauron easily out-coached Mangini in their last match-up, and has out-coached both Brian Billick and Wade Phillips the past two weeks. Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will need to trust their players more this week than the previous two weeks. They haven’t had faith in running the ball with Jones or Washington, when the key to the Jets’ offense is getting these two players going. It will be all a matter of game-planning, and if the two trust the team’s playmakers, the Jets have a chance to win.
PREDICTION: Jets finally get back on track and win 24-13.
Game time is at 4:05PM on Sunday, 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!
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