While the talk among the media and fans is focused on the return of Rex Ryan the Jets aren't thinking about it nearly as much as everyone else. The Jets players don't want to beat Ryan anymore than they want to beat anyone else, they just want to win so they can improve to 6-3 and better position themselves for the playoffs. We know this because they spent the past two days telling us this as they rooled their eyes and shrugged off question after question about Ryan.
Right now the Jets would be the first wildcard team in the playoffs, the number five seed that would get to matchup with the winner of the trash heap that is the AFC South, maintaining that spot is far more important to the players than beating their old coach. Many players have a strong affinity for Ryan, some others do not. But how they feel about Ryan is completely irrelevant, sure it makes for entertaining stories and quotes leading up to the game, and there will be some more after the game, but during the 60 minutes of actual game-time the Jets will be focused on beating the Buffalo Bills and getting their sixth win. During the game Doug Marrone might as well still be the Bills coach, the players won't be thinking about Ryan at all once the ball is snapped.
Ryan will be fired up, you know he wants this win. That's how he operates. While Todd Bowles treats every game the same, Ryan plays into the hype and has no problem letting the world know some games have more personal significance. Sometimes this works in Ryan's favor, many other times it does not. Ryan's teams can come out with too much energy, so much so that they get out of their lanes, and as Jets fans well know some times too much energy equals too many mistakes and too many penalties.
Regardless of how the game turns out the energy inside MetLife stadium will be absolutely electric at the start of the game. Ryan expects to be booed as he enters the stadium filled with green. The Jets are having a "Green Out" and will be celebrating First Responder Night.
The Jets sent out an email with details, so for the Green Out "fans are encouraged to wear their green Jets gear. Toyota, day of game partner, will distribute green car flags to fans upon entrance." The Nike Color Rush Uniforms will make their debut, the "Jets will wear Kelly Green Uniforms - pants, shoes, jerseys, gloves, socks, and a chrome Kelly Green facemask and helmet decal. A display with the full Kelly Green Uniform will be on display at the Jets Expierence. The Flight Crew will be dressed in their new Color Rush inspired jackets. In addition, the Empire State Building will have a Jets "Green Out" light shown between 6 and 6:15 pm Thursday night. The show will last approximately three minutes and the building will remain green afterwards."
For First Responder Night,"On the inner Loop Roadway, a Newark 1950's police car, NYPD SUV, two unmarked cars, and Edgewater Ambulance and Edgewater Firetruck will be on display pregame." On the field before the game there will be an, "NYPD awards ceremony (25 officers), 60 first responders forming tunnel for player introductions, four Newark Police motorcycles will lead the team out of the tunnel." There will be, "8 first responder honorary captains, 100 first responders will hold a 30-to-30 American Flag during the National Anthem, a moment of silence in remembrance of first responders, NJ State Police Color Guard, 3 NJ State Police Helicopter Flyover (will have search lights on), at halftime, the West Islip Fire Department pipe and drum band will perform and 75 first responders were invited to team walkthrough on November 7."
WHEN: Sunday November 12, 2015 1 pm EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ
Jets: Out - Willie Colon placed on IR, Dion Bailey (ankle), Calvin Pryor (ankle) Doubtful - Antonio Cromartie (quad), Bilal Powell (ankle) Questionable - Buster Skrine (shoulder/hand) Probable - Jeremy Kerley (illness), Nick Mangold (neck), Eric Decker (knee), Brandon Marshall (toe,ankle), Tommy Bohanon (shoulder), Chris Ivory (hamstring), Dexter McDougle (hand, ankle) Stevan Ridley (knee), Ryan Fitzpatrick (left thumb), Geno Smith (left shoulder), Kellen Davis (hand), Dee Milliner (wrist)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Utilize screen passes to the running backs - The Jets have struggled to get the running game going the past three games and they will likely continue to have problems running the ball against the Bills front that allows only 93.6 rushing yards per game. Mangold will play and if he can play the entire game that would obviously improve their ability to run the ball and the Bills are missing Kyle Williams so that should help but Ryan will stack the box and force Fitzpatrick to beat his defense.
If the Jets can't get into a rhythm running the ball they need to find other ways to utilize Ivory and they have found success running screen plays to their backs throughout the season, they just might have to run a few more of them. Whether it's Ivory, Zac Stacy or Ridley (if he actually gets some snaps) the Jets should make sure to get them involved in the passing game. It would also have the added benefit of helping open up things for Marshall and Decker. It might also be smart to dial up some plays for Jeff Cumberland, he had the big play last week but more than that Rex Ryan's defenses have always struggled to defend tight ends. Cumberland, of course, has been known to drop the occasional pass but a few big plays to him could really open up the offense.
Protect against the deep ball - Like the Jets the Bills defense is based on a strong running game first, they rank second in the NFL in rushing offense with 141.6 yards per game, which, of course, you expect from a Rex Ryan offense. However, unlike the Jets the Bills passing game relies heavily on the deep-ball. The Jets defense will need to make sure to contain Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and keep him inside the posket. Taylor has excellent mobility but he prefers to use that mobility to run around behind the line of scrimmage and buy time before unleashing a bomb downfield. The Jets defensive front needs to pressure Taylor but also keep him bottled up inside the pocket and if they can't do that on any given play the secondary needs to have tight coverage and not lose sight of the receivers until well after the play is actually over.
Win turnover/penalty battle - Yes, this is obvious but these teams are built so similarly and so evenly matched that it would be foolish to ignore the fact that one or two turnovers could determine the game. The Jets have had some penalty issues this season but the Bills, not surprisingly, have had a ton of penalty issues. Rex Ryan teams have historically had some discipline issues and this team is just as prone to those mistakes. If the Jets can keep their composure and allow the Bills to beat themselves it will make their job much easier.
Everything - Maybe that's a bit of a stretch but these teams will pit strength-against-strength and weakness-against-weakness. Both teams rely on the running game to set up the pass and both teams have excellent run defense. If one of the teams can have a significantly more productive running game that team is likely to win.
PREDICTION: Jets 21-17
The Thursday night games typically aren't very good, but that's mostly because one team is usually vastly superior to the other. That is not the case here, which leads me to believe this could be a very close game. If the Bills and Ryan get a little too cute and undisciplined the could unravel just enough for the Jets to pull out the victory.