Jockeying for position in the stacked AFC wild-card race, the New York Jets (5-3) try to fend off the rising Buffalo Bills (4-4) and former head coach Rex Ryan on “Thursday Night Football” at MetLife Stadium.
With the AFC East likely out of reach thanks to New England’s perfect 8-0 start, the Jets and Bills chances of making the postseason explicitly lay in the league’s most contested wild card race. New York’s barely ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4), but Buffalo’s right behind challenging the Oakland Raiders (4-4) for last team out.
Each side dealt with two-game slides but recovered in Week 9 with victories to set up what could be a season-altering moment.
Buffalo’s seen quarterback Tyrod Taylor excel as the offense’s new leader and top playmaker, while second-year receiver Sammy Watkins has shined of late after a poor start to the season and running back LeSean McCoy is finally healthy and producing beside rookie Karlos Williams.
About to start a devastating stretch of five road games in their next six contests, including three straight beginning with the Jets, the Bills came off their bye and blasted Miami 33-17 with 266 combined rushing yards and three scores by Williams and McCoy and Watkins exploded for eight receptions for 168 yards and his third touchdown of the season.
Taylor was also nearly perfect on the day, completing 11 of 12 passes for 181 yards and the strike to Watkins, and he’s tossed only one interception in his last four starts.
The win marked the first time Ryan’s defense held the opposition under 20 points in three weeks, but mental mistakes luckily didn’t cost the Bills. They were flagged 13 times for a loss of 94 yards against Miami, and now lead the league with 85 flags.
The Jets and first-year head coach Todd Bowles didn’t play their best in Week 9, but overcame a torn ligament in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s left thumb and took advantage of four Jacksonville turnovers for a 28-23 home win.
Fitzpatrick didn’t seem too hampered by the thumb injury, hitting Eric Decker for a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter and sewing up the game by hitting Brandon Marshall for a 20-yard score with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
Running back Chris Ivory managed a paltry 26 yards on 23 attempts, but still reached pay dirt twice and is now second in the NFL with six rushing touchdowns on the year.
But Ivory, as well as McCoy and Williams, could struggle at the start of Week 10. The Jets own the NFL’s best rushing defense, allowing 3.8 yards per carry and only 80.6 yards per game with opponents finding the endzone twice all season. Buffalo isn’t too far back with only 93.6 yards allowed per game.
Injuries also stand to play a major role for both sides. The good news for Buffalo is that McCoy (shoulder) and Watkins (ankle) will suit up despite injuries, but both right tackles Seantrel Henderson (illness) and Cyrus Kouandjio (knee) are questionable and The Buffalo News reports third-year tackle Jordan Mills could step up. He started 29 games the last two seasons for Chicago, but has appeared in only two games for Buffalo this year.
Meanwhile, the Jets highly lauded secondary is expected to miss some key contributors. Safeties Dion Bailey (ankle) and Calvin Pryor (ankle) have already been ruled out, and cornerbacks Buster Skrine (shoulder/hand) and Antonio Cromartie (quadriceps) are doubtful.
To combat the knocks in the secondary the Jets called up former first-round pick Dee Milliner from short-term injured reserve.
Betting Odds: New York -2.5
Over/under: 42 points
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NFL Network
Live Online: NFL Online