The New England Patriots are running away with the AFC East title, but the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are still alive and well in the hunt for a playoff spot. The division rivals begin Week 10 action with a matchup on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
New York snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars and taking sole possession of the AFC’s No.5 seed with a 5-3 record. After handily beating the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, the Bills are back to .500 and just a half-game out of the postseason race.
Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to consider the Jets and Bills to be essentially even, since the Jets are three-point favorites at home, according to vegasinsider.com. The over/under is 43 points.
Rex Ryan’s Return
The current Bills head coach helped turn around the Jets at the start of the decade, leading them to the AFC Championship Game in his first two years with the team. But things quickly went south, and Ryan was out after four straight years of no playoff appearances. On Thursday, he makes his way back to MetLife Stadium, this time as a member of the team opposing the Jets.
"I promise you, it's just another opponent right now," Ryan said on Sunday, via ESPN.com. "Now will that change when I'm in there? That's a possibility. But I can tell you this -- it's all about, you're playing another team. And I know that team really well.”
Ryan has downplayed his return to New York, but it remains one of the biggest storylines surrounding Thursday’s game. He went 26-38 in his final four seasons with the team, failing to have a winning season from 2011-2014.
The Bills have been banged up for much of this season, suffering injuries to their best players. However, the team’s top stars are finally getting healthy, and it’s paying dividends.
Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy have all missed at least two games this season. But all three were on the field in Week 9, having their best individual games of the season. Taylor hadn’t played in nearly a month, and he had a season-high 146.5 passer rating against Miami, improving his record to 4-2. Watkins went for over 60 yards for the first time in 2015, catching eight passes for 168 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. McCoy left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, but he should be fine after rushing for a season-high 112 yards on seven yards per carry. McCoy had been battling a hamstring injury that he suffered in August, but he seems to be finally getting over the ailment.
Buffalo has only played four games with their No.1 quarterback, wide receiver and running back. In those contests, the team has gone 3-1, outscoring their opponents 133-85.
Rushing yards could be tough to come by on Thursday, considering the way both teams have played in recent weeks. No team has been better against the run than New York, though the team’s rushing attack has completely disappeared in the last few games.
Buffalo had a dominant ground game in their win over Miami, running the ball 36 times for 266 yards. They aren’t likely to have a similar performance against the Jets, who rank first in the NFL, allowing 80.6 rushing yards per game. New York has surrendered just two rushing touchdowns this season. McCoy and Karlos Williams have combined to play 11 games for the Bills, rushing for 752 total yards on 5.2 yards per carry.
Chris Ivory leads the Jets with 544 rushing yards, but only 84 of those yards have come in the last three games. His 26 yards against the Jaguars were the fewest ever for a player with at least 23 rushing attempts in one game. Buffalo has the league’s No.6 run defense.
The Jets were able to win on Sunday, despite getting nothing from their ground game because Ryan Fitzpatrick has played surprisingly well. New York is able to move the ball through the air, and their defense remains one of the league’s best. Buffalo’s offense has played well when healthy, but their defense has been inconsistent. It should be a close game, but the Jets have the edge if they can get any kind of production from Ivory and the rest of their rushing attack.
Predicted Score: New York over Buffalo, 27-20