An interesting match up tonight north of the border, as the Bills beat the Jets in the Meadowlands 16-13 in Week Six. Both teams have certainly changed since that match up. The Jets have attempted to scale back on how much rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has to do. The Bills have fired Dick Jauron and shown that they aren’t going down without a fight. After giving the Jacksonville Jaguars everything they could handle in Week 11, the Bills routed the Miami Dolphins to the tune of 24 points to none in the fourth quarter last Sunday.
So the question is this: Can the Bills stop Thomas Jones this time around?
In the first match up, Jones had a career day, the Bills gave up over 300 yards on the ground and still won. They can’t give up that many yards again and expect to win. Given Sanchez's reduced role, the Jets won’t be throwing if they can rush for that many yards.
Of course it’s impossible to say 100 percent that the Bills will slow Jones down this time around. However, on the Jets’ side of the ball, they don’t have Leon Washington who gashed the Bills last time out and provided very good breathers for Jones.
The past two weeks, the Bills faced Maurice Jones-Drew and Ricky Williams, two very good running backs. In fact, MJD is a top 10 back in the league (some may say he might be top five, but that’s a different discussion). However, he didn’t come anywhere near the yardage Jones gashed the Bills for, the same goes for Williams.
Part of the reason for the turnaround of the run defense (yes, they’ve had a turnaround, they haven’t given up anywhere near that many yards on the ground since the previous Jets game) has been the play of the defensive tackles, specifically Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson. Both of them have been trouble for opposing offensive lines and been making plays in the backfield the past two weeks. If that continues, Jones won’t see anywhere near as much yardage.
If the Bills can force the ball into Sanchez’s hands to try and win the game, we could see a game similar to the Dolphins game last Sunday where the Bills defense took over in the fourth quarter, picking off quarterback Chad Henne three times. In their last meeting, the Bills picked off Sanchez five times. If the Bills can produce on offense and hold Jones to more manageable numbers, they will win this game.
Part of the offensive production will be on the shoulders of running back Fred Jackson. He’s been playing quite well, running the ball hard and finding the end zone. If the Bills can establish a running game of their own, it will go a long way towards winning this game tonight.
However, if the Bills are to win and establish a running game, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to continue producing big plays when the opportunity presents itself. This will be hard with corner back Darrelle Revis matched up against Fitzpatrick’s favorite target right now, wide receiver Terrell Owens.
The Jets won’t hesitate to put Revis one-on-one against Owens until he burns them. That will allow them to put a safety over the top of fellow receiver Lee Evans, which means either Fitzpatrick needs Owens to beat Revis a few times, or offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt needs to get tight end Shawn Nelson and Fred Jackson more involved in the passing game.
Both players have the ability to make plays in the passing game, and that may be what it takes for the Bills to win this game. If both players get involved, it will either open up Evans from double-teams or open up the running game, if the Jets decide to bring the other safety into the box.
All that being said, I really like what interim head coach Perry Fewell has been doing with the Bills in the past two weeks. He’s preached aggressiveness, but not out-of-control aggressiveness. He’s picking his spots to be aggressive , and the players on the field are taking the same approach. This approach should translate to a win for the Bills in a close game.