The Buffalo Bills have nothing left to play for except for spoiling the New York Jets playoff bid. The Bills will host their AFC East division rivals at Ralph Wilson Stadium with kickoff set for 1 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.
Buffalo (7-8) comes into the game knowing that its season will end in disappointment for the 16th straight year though the Bills can still play spoiler by defeating the Jets (10-5), something that coach Rex Ryan definitely wants to do. Buffalo has not made the playoffs since 1999 – the longest active streak in the NFL — though a win would give the Bills a sweep in season 1 of the “Rex Ryan Bowl” and give the team just their sixth non-losing campaign in the past 16 years.
Buffalo defeated New York 22-17 earlier this season after taking a 22-3 lead midway through the third. The Bills have struggled since that victory at MetLife Stadium, losing four-of-six.
Buffalo is coming off a 16-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys as third-year running back Mike Gillislee rushed for a career-high 93 yards, including a 50-yard TD dash, on nine carries. The Bills held a 408-307 advantage in total yards last week.
According to Bills.com, Buffalo will be without linebacker Nigel Bradham for the fifth straight week and leading rusher LeSean McCoy (knee), who also didn’t play last week. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor (right shoulder) and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (neck) are among the Bills listed as probable.
New York has won five-of-six to be in position to secure its first playoff bid in four seasons. If the Jets do lose, they still get into the playoffs with a Cleveland Browns (3-12) victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6).
New York is coming off a surprising 26-20 Week 16 overtime win over the New England Patriots. The Jets, who dominated every aspect of the game, defeated the Patriots for just the second time in their last 10 attempts.
As every team at this time of year, the Jets are dinged up. The biggest injury concern for the Jets is at running back as their two leading rushers are on the injury report. Bilal Powell, who has rushed for 313 yards, has not practiced this week due to a sore ankle while Chris Ivory, who leads the team with 989 yards, has been bothered by a sore knee. ESPN reports that Powell is officially listed as questionable and Ivory has been designated as probable though it is likely he will play tomorrow. Steven Ridley will back Ivory up if Powell can’t go.
Tight end Kellen Davis and offensive linemen Breno Giacomini are also listed as questionable and in the meanwhile linebacker Calvin Pace (abdomen) and defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson (toe) are probable.
So, who will win?
Buffalo has won five-of-the-past six meetings between the clubs, which includes the last three at The Ralph. However, the Jets are healthier. The Bills are the slight favorites according to ESPN’s Power Index but both ESPN’s Nation’s team reporters have selected the Jets.
One thing is for sure there will be snow and it will likely be blustery.
The following is a look at what the Bills must do to spoil the Jets season.
- Run the ball well.
Buffalo has the top rushing attack in the NFL and has rushed for 200-yards in each of its last two games and that is without McCoy, who leads the team in yards on the ground. Without McCoy, that means Karlos Williams and Gillislee will get the bulk of the carries. The Bills average 154.6 yards on the ground and 5.0 yards a carry to go along with 17 touchdowns. Buffalo’s backs have fumbled seven times but has only lost one.
The Jets have the top run defense, permitting just 81.5 yards a game but they held that distinction in the first matchup and the Bills torched them for 147 yards.
- Bills must attack the Jets downfield
The Jets are very good against the run and do pretty good getting to the quarterback, plus New York are solid at corner with Darrelle Reivis, Marcus Williams and Antonio Cromartie, but the Jets are susceptible to big plays in the passing game.
New York has given up 57 pass plays of 20 or more yards, which ranks 27th in the NFL. Buffa has totaled 68 pass plays of 20 yards or more.
The Bills have surrendered 40 sacks this season.
- Offensive lineman Jordan Mills winning the battle against Muhammed Wilkerson
Mills, who is in his third NFL Season, has a tough matchup against Wilkinson and it is imperative that he keeps Wilkerson off Taylor. He won’t be able to do it alone but he needs to do his part.
Wilkerson leads the Jets in sacks (12), QB hits (27) and tackles for loss (11).
As a team, Buffalo has surrendered 40 sacks this season, which is the 10th mot in the league.
- Get pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has the savvy to pick apart defenses when he is able to stand in the pocket all day, but does also have a habit to turn the ball over when he pressured and hit. Fitzpatrick has a few lingering issues that Buffalo could exploit.
The Bills only have registered 20 sacks all season.
- Shutdown WR Brandon Marshall
Marshall was named the team’s MVP, catching 101 passes for 1,378 yards to go along with 13 touchdowns. Marshall’s counterpart Eric Decker is slightly less dangerous, as he has 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
[Photo courtesy of New York Jets Twitter]