At last, the regular season is coming to an end and the Jets (4-11) will host the Buffalo Bills (7-8) in their final home game this season. It's been a season to forget for the Jets, but their pride will be on the line after being annihilated by the New England Patriots 41-3 last week. The Bills are coming off a three point overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins, that knocked them out of playoff contention and forwarded the firing of Rex and Rob Ryan. Interim coach Anthony Lynn will coach the team Sunday.
You may not remember, but the Jets went to Buffalo and defeated the Bills 37-31 in Week Two. A lot has changed since then, but Sunday the Jets will try to sweep the division series against Buffalo for the first time since 2011. Here's what to watch for on New Years Day:
WHEN: Sunday January 1, 2017 1 p.m. EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Sunday will be the last time Ryan Fitzpatrick suits up for Gang Green. Many fans are still upset that rookie Christian Hackenberg won't be getting the starting nod, but fans can rejoice at the fact that the bearded one won't be with the team after Sunday. The marriage between Fitzpatrick and the organization has been rocky and both sides know it's best to part ways.
"I think there’s probably an obvious reality the way the year is going to come to a close for me," said the 12 million dollar man.
Fitzpatrick had his best game of the season facing the Bills in Week Two. He went 24 of 34 with 374 yards and one touchdown, and more importantly -- ZERO turnovers. The Bills are giving up 225.3 passing yards per game and have a plus nine turnover ratio. The Jets need to protect the football in order to win and it starts with Fitzpatrick making good decisions. Brandon Marshall (hip and shoulder) is questionable for the game, so Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa will be the main options in the passing game. If Fitzpatrick has a strong Harvard handle on his decision making, the Jets can get a victory. If not, the team will unravel and it will be another miserable afternoon at MetLife.
Run Run Run-
The Bills rank 28th in run defense, and the Jets need exploit them at the line of scrimmage. Matt Forte (knee) has been ruled out for the game and Khiry Robinson broke his leg again last week so Bilal Powell will continue to see the majority of the carries like he has in previous weeks. The Jets rank 13th in rushing offense and giving the ball to Powell will help the team control the time of possession. If their banged up offensive line can hold up, the Jets should be able to do work in the ground game. Running back's Brandon Burks and Brandon Wilds were brought up from the practice squad to spell Powell this weekend, we'll see if they get some touches as well.
The Bills front office ushered in its interim head coach by forcing him to bench starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor Sunday due to contractual obligations. If Taylor gets hurt this weekend the Bills will owe him $14 million and they aren't willing to take the risk. This is disappointing to Jets fans who want to see Taylor play, hoping to see him in Green and White next season. Instead, Jets faithful will get to see backup E.J. Manuel in action. Manuel has thrown just six passes this season but he'll lead the Bills' 12th ranked total offense. The Bills have the best rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 170.8 yards per game. This is mainly due to Taylor and LeSean McCoy doing the ground work, but Manuel can improvise with his feet as well. He needs to rely heavily on McCoy who is approaching 1,300 rushing yards this year. The Jets will be without linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin and defensive lineman Steve McLendon, and the Bills can capitalize off of this by running the football and protecting Manuel.
Protect the Sticks
Buffalo has the second worst passing attack in the league, but that stat could go out the window because they play the Jets, who are near the bottom in defending the pass. The Jet secondary has let opposing receivers do way too much this season and they must keep Buffalo's receivers at bay. Darrelle Revis, Juston Burris, and Buster Skrine must do their part an protect the first down marker. Teams have killed the Jets all year with the short passing game, but the Jets haven't done much to prevent it with the way they've played the sticks. If the secondary doesn't get in the face of Buffalo's receivers -- Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Sammy Watkins will keep the chains moving.
X-FACTOR: Quincy Enunwa
Fitzpatrick doesn't have the arm strength to stretch the field so he'll rely on screens and intermediate passes. Enunwa is a strong versatile player that can do damage from the inside and outside. In the last meeting against the Bills, Enunwa had six catches for 92 yards. With Bills corner back Stephon Gilmore (concussion) out for the game, Enunwa shouldn't have an issue getting open. He has seen his production go down in previous weeks, and Enunwa had just one catch last week-- but it went for 30 yards. Get him the football!
Prediction: Bills 24-13
This game has the potential to be dreadful. Both teams have similar philosophies but the Bills have the healthier roster. With that said, the Jets don't have enough offensively to win the game. Fans attending the game will likely be discussing who the Jets will acquire in the off season, rather than what's transpiring on the field. Bills win, and the Jets fall to 1-7 at home.
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).