The Buffalo Bills (4 – 4) may have their playoff hopes on the line tonight (Nov. 12) when they take on their coach’s former team, the New York Jets (5 – 3), in unquestionably their biggest game of the year.
The Bills have missed the playoffs for 15 straight seasons and if they are going to break the league’s longest playoff drought, they pretty much have to show up on the road and top the Jets because in the following week they have to face Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots, a very tough matchup for any team, especially Buffalo.
But while the Bills looked horrible in London in losing to the Jaguars, they looked like a different team last Sunday against the Dolphins with an impressive 33 – 17 victory that featured outstanding performances by Sammy Watkins (8 catches, 168 yards) and Tyrod Taylor (11 out of 12, 181 yards, one TD to Watkins) who were both sidelined the week before with injuries.
The rushing game was the best it has been in years with LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams combining for 222 yards including a 48 yard touchdown run by McCoy.
Now fans must remember that while the Bills beat Miami handily for the second time in six weeks (2 of their 4 wins), the Dolphins are far from a good team and while Buffalo regained some respect with the impressive offensive display on Sunday at the Ralph, it will take more than a win over the struggling Dolphins to tag them a playoff threat. But they did win, and if their star players can stay healthy, who knows how far they can go.
I firmly believe that the Bills must beat the Jets (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Darrelle Revis, et al) if they want to make the playoffs. The Jets barely got by the Jaguars Sunday and appear ripe for the taking if the Bills show up, and that’s not a sure thing given what’s happened the last 15 years in big games. But maybe this time it will be different, right Rex?
The subplot for Thursday’s big matchup is Ryan going against his former team, the Jets, which dumped him after his promised Super Bowl title never materialized. No doubt, it will be extra motivation for both teams, but probably more pressure on Rex who promised the playoffs when he arrived in Buffalo only to struggle to a 4 – 4 start. But he seems to be in good form leading up to tonight’s game, tweaking the Jets during the buildup and praising their stars as only Rex can do.
I’m ready to give Ryan a shot at redemption in light of getting his team ready for that strong game against Miami, a game they needed to win badly and did. We know the Jets are a much better team than the Dolphins, but they are hardly an elite team. Nonetheless, a victory over the Jets will give Ryan and the Bills a look of credibility and that means something in this league. And it will give fans hope that the playoffs are a possibility, not just a gimmick to boost ticket sales engineered by the well-oiled front office that’s very good at making money from a losing franchise.
Tyrod Taylor looks like the real deal, a legitimate threat through the air and on the ground. If Watkins can stay healthy, he is a game changer although Revis is better than anyone he faced against the Dolphins. He’ll need to shine or do a good job as a decoy for the Bills to notch a very important victory, one that very well could decide the team’s fate.
The Bills are finally healthy and there are no excuses available if they come up short against the Jets. They need to come home with a win if this season is going to be different than the last 15. There is a lot riding on tonight’s game, and nobody knows more than Rex Ryan except for maybe the Bills fans.