Every game is important in the NFL, at least that’s what they tell me. However, there does not seem to be any question that the upcoming game against the Jets has an increased air of urgency about it for the Bills. Fans know it and I can guarantee the coaches and players realize it.
Last year, the Jets absolutely embarrassed the Bills, thanks to a potent running game. Rex Ryan’s squad put up 549 rushing yards in two games on 99 carries – that equates to 5.55 yards per carry. Not only did the green machine put up yards, they did it with their backups and backups’ backups, in Week 17, including current Bill Brad Smith. I’m pretty sure I saw even Rex Ryan carry the ball for 10 yards at one point.
Buffalo showcased an improved run defense just last week against the Redskins. At home the Bills are poised to make a statement against a team that has not run the ball well at all this year, but did seem to improve just before their bye week. No matter how bad they appear, the Jets always seem to run the ball well against Buffalo and stopping them would be a huge step in the right direction.
People who have read my previous columns know that I like to talk about the run. I do tend to address numbers against the run the most. First of all, they are generally more consistent than passing numbers. Second, I still believe that the run game is where teams win and lose, outside of rare exceptions (cough, Peyton Manning). Third, run defense is something the Bills have obviously tried to address in the last couple of years, so it behooves any number-cruncher to investigate how they are doing overall.
Anyway, let’s hit the meat of the article – the numbers surrounding the game and why they are important. As always, national ranking is in parentheses.
3.7 – average yards per run of the Jets’ offense (28). This is a number I tend to use every week, YPC because it is an important one. Buffalo on the year has allowed 4.9 YPC on defense (27). However, both teams have done better recently than their seasonal averages indicate. During 7 of the last 8 quarters (4th quarter of the Giants game was excluded), Buffalo has held their opponents to 2.6 YPC. In their game before the bye week, the Jets averaged 5.2 YPC against a good run defense in San Diego. Which recent trend will dominate?
25 – number of receptions for New York’s leading receiver, Dustin Keller. Buffalo has had a lot of difficulties covering tight ends both this year and in years past. Mark Sanchez has a great connection with Keller and will continue to look there against Buffalo. The former Purdue player could be dangerous for Buffalo, especially if the Jets utilize play-action passes.
17 – sacks given up by the Jets on offense (16T). Jets are middle of the road in giving up sacks. While Buffalo’s total rose promisingly last Sunday, do not expect to see many sacks on Mark Sanchez. The Jets are very strong at two of the positions that Buffalo took advantage of in playing against Washingon: left tackle (D’Brickashaw Ferguson) and center (Nick Mangold). Dareus will get a huge test if he stays at DT against New York.
54.1 – completion percentage allowed by Jets’ defense (5). A clash of efficiencies meet in Buffalo as Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed 67.7 percent of his passes this year for a 97.8 quarterback rating. The Jets are swallowing up the pass, only allowing 4 passing touchdowns on the year while nabbing 11 interceptions. Ryan Fitzpatrick absolutely must take care of the ball.
Overall, the Jets appear to be an average team, especially when it comes to run offense and defense. Their strength is obviously pass defense. Buffalo must be able to run the ball well, but also take advantage of personnel groupings. San Diego ran very efficiently against New York and forced Rex Ryan to beef up the interior at one point. Run the ball to set up the pass.
Gailey will continue to spread the field horizontally. The secondary receivers will be important and it is very good that Donald Jones should play. That moves David Nelson back to the slot where he should be able to thrive. It’s entirely possible the Jets will use Cromartie against Nelson even in the slot to try and negate the height advantage Buffalo would normally have in those situations.
Everything in this game starts and ends with the run game. Buffalo needs to be able to show the nation that they can indeed stop the run as the Jets move back to their ground and pound philosophy. At the same time, they have to be able to get Fred Jackson going on offense, as that should help open up the passing game. Basically, the Bills need to keep doing what they’ve been doing on offense while continuing to improve on defense.
On one last note, I would like to point out that Fred Jackson has 74 more rushing yards than the entire Jets team.
Prediction: Bills 23, Jets 14