The Buffalo Bills play host to the New York Jets this weekend, the last game in a disappointing campaign for both sides.
The Bills (5-10) and Jets (6-9) entered the year with legitimate playoff aspirations, but for a multitude of reasons, things have not panned out as expected.
In New York, an early season injury to all-world cornerback Darelle Revis presaged forthcoming doom. Then again, even with Revis in uniform, its hard to imagine a team led by either Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy would have been particularly competitive.
In Buffalo, a defense that was supposed to be formidable, if not superb, has failed them time and time again. And, much like the Jets, the Bills' recently signed franchise QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, has fallen significantly short of expectations.
There won't be much at stake in this one. Just pride and draft position. But let's take a look at how it might play out regardless:
When: Sunday, Dec. 30th – 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Watch: CBS (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Buffalo -3.5 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
Four of the Bills' five wins have come by more than 3.5 points. Eight of the Jets' nine losses have come by more than 3.5 points too.
So, essentially, you can paper over the spread in this one. If the Jets win, they automatically cover, and if the Bills win, history says they'll probably cover too.
Neither team has inspired confidence the past few weeks, but the Jets' implosion has been particularly painful to watch. Between that and the home-field advantage, it'd be hard not to pick the Bills in this one.
Personally, I'd pass. But in pool play, Buffalo's the pick.
Over/Under: 39.0 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
The Jets broke a three-game under streak against San Diego, their first over since getting throttled by the Pats on Thanksgiving. This in spite of the fact that every game during that streak had an over/under of 40 or lower.
The introduction of Greg McElroy somehow made the Jets offense look even worse last Sunday. They aren't playing a very good Bills defense, but Buffalo defends the pass better than the run. Especially in Orchard Park, that could mean a long day for the Jets' new starting QB.
The Bills, meanwhile, played a hard-on-the-eyes 15-12 game against St. Louis last time they were on their (real) home field. Expect more of the same here.
Take the under.
New York Jets Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 12/27/12)
|CB Aaron Berry||Hamstring||Questionable|
|DT Damon Harrison||Ankle||Questionable|
|TE Dustin Keller||Ankle||Questionable|
|LB Ricky Sapp||Ankle||Questionable|
|DT Muhammad Wilkerson||Concussion||Doubtful|
Buffalo Bills Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 12/27/12)
|LB Chris White||Hamstring||Questionable|
|WR Marcus Easley||Hamstring||Questionable|
|DE Mark Anderson||Knee||Questionable|
Fantasy Big Plays
New York Jets: RB Shonn Greene
According to Football Outsiders, Buffalo ranks 31st in the league against the run; only the Colts do a worse job.
It took place all the way back in Week 1—a time where the Jets still had a semblance of hope on offense—but Greene had one of his best games of the season against Buffalo. He torched them to the tune of 94 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
He's coming off one of his best fantasy games of the season, too: a two-touchdown performance against the Chargers.
Greene isn't a must-start by any stretch, but he'd be hard-pressed to find a better matchup.
Buffalo Bills: RB C.J. Spiller
The Jets have a pretty good defense, but they're considerably stronger against the pass than they are against the run. Their 135.3 rushing yards allowed per game ranks 27th in the league.
Last week, Spiller continued his breakout season with 173 total yards on 26 touches against a criminally underrated Dolphins front seven. Miami ranks seventh against the run in Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency rankings, considerably higher than the 17th-ranked Jets.
He had 169 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries against New York in Week 1, and should find similar, if not slightly less inflated, success on Sunday.
Key to Victory
Both teams are limping toward the 2012 finish line. The Jets were only eliminated two weeks ago, but the way they've played, it feels like an eternity. And the Bills are just two weeks removed from a 50-17 drubbing at the hands of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
As alluded to earlier, neither team has much to gain from earning a victory here. In fact, insofar as jockeying for draft picks is concerned, both teams would probably benefit more from a loss.
But that's a hard sell for a roomful of dignified adults, many of whom aren't even sure they'll be wearing the same jersey next season. What do they care about where the team drafts in April?
It sounds like a cop out, but the team who cares more about winning, who genuinely exerts a proud, concerted effort, is likely to take home the W.
The Jets' tailspin in the wake of being eliminated has been a sight for sore eyes. If their body language could talk, it would beg not to even have to play a game in Week 17.
After a pseudo "home game" in Toronto, the Bills will come out with some Buffalo-fueled fire. And that should be too much for the listless Jets to overcome.
Predicted Score: Buffalo 23, New York 10