The last four years have been rough ones for the New York Jets when they’ve taken on the Buffalo Bills. In the eight times the two franchises have met over that span, the Jets have managed just two wins. Last season, the Jets were swept in the home-and-home set, with Week 17 representing a crushing loss costing the Jets a playoff berth.
If the Jets want to change that, get back on the right track and get this monkey off their back, it has to start Thursday night.
Here are three things the Jets have to do in order to change this narrative.
Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has always been able to mess with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets quarterback has just a 47 percent completion ratio, has thrown 12 interceptions compared to 16 touchdowns and won only once in nine meetings between him and Ryan.
Part of the reason for that is Ryan’s ability to throw multiple looks at Fitzpatrick, get after him with blitzes and generally keep the quarterback uncomfortable.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets offensive line did pretty well against the Cincinnati Bengals. As PFF notes, “the Jets’ line was charged with six hurries, no sacks, and no hits.”
They have to keep that up against what should be a tough Bills pass rush.
Execute in the Red Zone
While you can point to some bad kicking from Nick Folk as a big reason why the Jets lost 23-22 to the Bengals, their failure to execute in the red zone on three of their five opportunities had more impact on the game.
Part of doing that is finding a way to get Brandon Marshall involved, or at least take advantage of the times when the offense involves him. Marshall had a pretty bad game against the Bengals, catching just three of the eight passes thrown his way. That can’t continue if the Jets are going to be successful.
It’s even worse when paired with Eric Decker who caught just two passes on seven targets. He did score on a 15-yard pass in the second quarter, but overall Decker struggled.
Decker and Marshall were huge red zone weapons last season when the Jets were the NFL’s No. 1 red zone offense. They need to get back on track to help this team.
If there was one bright spot in the red zone last week, it was Quincy Enunwa. Playing a combination slot/tight end role, Enunwa scored on a three-yard pass in the first quarter, and he caught seven of the eight passes tossed in his direction.
While Enunwa is a nice addition, this red zone offense needs more from Decker and much more from Marshall. If the Jets are going to win this Thursday night game, they will have to score touchdowns when they hit the Bills’ 20-yard line.
Contain Taylor and Watson
The Bills have more weapons than quarterback Tyrod Taylor and receiver Sammy Watkins, but these two are the weapons the Jets should be most concerned with.
Two things work to the Jets’ advantage—their defensive line and a Sammy Watkins injury.
The Jets defensive line was relentless against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, and were responsible for sacking quarterback Andy Dalton six out of the seven times the defense got him. According to Pro Football Focus, Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon also managed two quarterback hits and three hurries along with the sacks.
The trick with Taylor is containing him because, unlike Dalton, the Buffalo signal caller can escape the pocket and run. That might require Wilkerson and Williams to play more contain and keep them from just pinning their ears back and rushing. The Jets can’t let Taylor get outside and extend the play.
Which also means Sheldon Richardson (back from a one-game suspension) and rookies Jordon Jenkins and Darron Lee might have to do some contain outside as well or pick up the slack rushing the passer while Williams and Wilkerson stay home on the ends.
If the pass rush can get to Taylor, it makes it easier to contain Watson—something the Jets secondary might struggle with.
We saw Darrelle Revis get destroyed by A.J. Green Sunday, and while it wasn’t all his fault, he’s clearly in decline.
Mind you, he’s still one of the ten best corners in the NFL—he just needs more help than he used to (although it is a little-acknowledged fact that safety help has always been a part of Revis’ game anyway).
He can’t do it all himself anyway, and never could. Nobody can. So when the secondary has issues aside from Revis, his issues are magnified.
Last Sunday, the issues involved some awful communication between members of the secondary, especially on the Green touchdown. It happened more than once, though, and that cannot happen again.
Which brings us back to Watson. On the plus side, he’s hurting, having aggravated the foot he had surgery on this offseason. On the minus side, he was hurting last week and yet still looked sharp. The Bills will have him on the field a lot—he was on for 84 percent of the offensive snaps against Baltimore—and they will throw his way often (he led the team in targets).
Revis is going to need some help over the top from his safeties and head coach Todd Bowles had better make sure that this week he gets it.