AFC East: Bills Get Ready For New York

The defense is improving and the offense is firing on nearly all cylinders. Can Buffalo keep the momentum going by defeating the surging New York Jets?

Fitzpatrick, Bills prepare to solve puzzling Jets

   In losing twice to the New York Jets last season, the Bills were outscored 76-21 and out-rushed 549-151.

   But this is a new season, a new Bills team.

   Buffalo (5-2) will put its first-place standing in the AFC East on the line Sunday at home against the Jets (4-3).

   Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played just once against New York last year, a 38-14 loss at home when he was held to 12 of 27 passing for 128 yards and two touchdowns. But Fitzpatrick is at the controls of one of the NFL's hottest offenses, one that is eager to test itself against Rex Ryan's Jets' defense that has plenty of pass rushers and has accumulated 18 sacks thus far.

   "When you play the Jets you can't figure out what they're doing half the time on defense," Fitzpatrick said. "They're sending guys from everywhere, running guys all around. They may have an advantage just in the fact that they had an extra week to prepare (bye week). I think we had an advantage last week (a 23-0 win over Washington in Toronto) with the bye ... and for us we're playing at home."

   The Bills are a perfect 3-0 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. A buzz is already building for Sunday's game; a win would put Buffalo in a very advantageous position in the division since they have already beaten New England (5-2).

   "We're playing in front of our fans, our crowd and that gives us all the advantage that I think we need," Fitzpatrick said. "We're looking forward to this game.

   "We know it's going to be a tough fight and they've been tough every time we've played them. But in order to do what we want to do in our division we've got to beat the best going through them (Jets), the Patriots and taking care of the Dolphins. That's what we have to do this year.
 
  "If you want to be playoff team you've got to win games in your division."

First Pick Paying Off, Finally

   --It has been a long time since the Bills have gotten first-year production from one of their first-round draft picks, but that drought is officially over thanks to Marcell Dareus.

   The big defensive tackle, who was taken No. 3 overall in April, has been a starter since Week 1, and against the Redskins, he enjoyed his breakout NFL game. Dareus had 2 1/2 sacks, the most by a Buffalo rookie in one game since Cornelius Bennett had four in a 1987 game.

   "He was awesome," linebacker Chris Kelsay said of Dareus. "He did an unbelievable job. He made the plays that needed to be made. He's a force to be reckoned with, and he's got a number of years ahead of playing like that, and we're fortunate that he's on our side."

   The Bills have certainly swung and missed in the first round in recent years with such notable flops as Mike Williams and Aaron Maybin, and with disappointing performers such as Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, Leodis McKelvin, Donte Whitner and, to date, 2010 selection C.J. Spiller. But Dareus was the right guy to pick when the Bills' turn came up because there was a glaring need at his position, and the Alabama product has delivered on the hype.

   Dareus has been lining up mostly at defensive end for the Bills, but a foot injury that has sidelined nose tackle Kyle Williams for several weeks has necessitated moving Dareus inside, and it's probably a move for the better because the 320-pounder seems better-suited to playing tackle.

   Against the Redskins, Dareus was almost unblockable as he made sacks and tackles and generally disrupted everything the Redskins tried to do.

   "I took it personally myself because I don't think as a front that we've done a good job of getting to the quarterback and putting as much pressure on the quarterback as needed," said Dareus, who led a charge that resulted in nine sacks, the second-best single-game total in team history. "So me and the D-line and the front seven, we've been emphasizing that, getting after the quarterback no matter what. Do all you can."

   With Dareus commanding double-team attention, the Bills were able to get creative on defense. They used a variety of pressure packages against John Beck, and most of them worked, as eight players were involved in the nine sacks.

   "He is a force inside, and you have to put two on him just about (every play)," coach Chan Gailey said of Dareus. "The nose position creates that because if both guards turn out, then that poor center is just sitting there."

   If Williams is able to return, it's uncertain what Gailey will do with Dareus, but after a performance like this, it seems silly to move him back outside. Dareus is an average pass rusher from the edge, but his size and strength make him a natural in the middle, where he can push the pocket and allow other rushers lanes to the quarterback.

   The Bills may entertain playing more 4-3 if Williams can return soon, because he and Dareus would form a dynamic tandem inside. Another option would be to move Williams to the end because he's a bit smaller and quicker and may actually provide more for the pass rush out there.

   "It's like I said when I first got here," Dareus said. "It doesn't matter where they want me, I'm going to do the best I can at wherever I'm at."

More Bills news at: Buffalo Football Report

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