The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are two of the top five teams in the NFL when it comes to takeaways. It is for that reason that this Sunday’s game in Buffalo promises to be a defensive onslaught from both teams.
Since Rex Ryan took over as the Jets’ head coach in 2009, the Jets’ defensive success has seemingly always depended on the outstanding turnover game the Jets defense is able to play. The Jets’ defensive unit boasts one of the best secondaries the NFL has seen in a long time, including the best cornerback in the league—Darrelle Revis (third in the NFL with four interceptions).
Over the last few seasons, the Bills have built their defensive game to be predicated on much of the same.
Since current New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s tenure with the Bills as their defensive coordinator, the Bills have been a stealthy, dangerous defense, especially in the passing game.
While 2010 was a down year for the Bills defense, in part because of injuries, they were second in the NFL with 28 interceptions in 2009. This season, the Bills lead the NFL in interceptions thanks to ballhawk defenders George Wilson and Drayton Florence.
Meanwhile, the Jets present perhaps the most dangerous cornerback duo in the NFL with Revis and Antonio Cromartie—tied for eighth in the NFL with three interceptions.
The last time these two teams played, the Jets beat the Bills in a 38-7 Week 17 thrashing without nearly all of their starters. The Jets defense promptly picked off Bills quarterbacks three times in the game, including one returned for a touchdown by cornerback Marquice Cole—his second of the day.
But this is a different Bills team from the one that finished 2010 at 4-12. This Bills unit appears to be one of the best in the NFL and brings a stellar defensive squad to the stadium every week.
This Bills team gets to square off against a quarterback who has been anything but impressive this season in Mark Sanchez. Turnovers have yet to be a serious problem for Sanchez, but one date with the Buffalo Bills can change that.
If the Bills can force Sanchez to make some mistakes, it could be a long day for the New York Jets.
Unfortunately for the Bills, that has not been so simple this season. Mark Sanchez ranks with some of the best quarterbacks in the league as far as interception percentage number goes, sitting at 2.5 percent. That number is better than two of the top quarterbacks in the league—Tom Brady and Drew Brees (both at 2.9).
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the other hand ranks amongst the worst quarterbacks in the league with 3.1 percent of his passes being intercepted.
As efficient as Ryan Fitzpatrick has been—he has a passer rating of 97.8—when he makes mistakes they are costly mistakes. With Revis and Cromartie opposite him, Fitzpatrick cannot afford to make a mistake that could cost them the game and their division lead over the Jets in the AFC East.
Revis Island has held every receiver he’s faced down to this point in the season, allowing just 10 receptions all year. If Fitzpatrick cannot get the football to his favorite target, Stevie Johnson, and the pressure from the Jets is coming down hard, one forced ball could be the end for the Buffalo Bills.
Interceptions are not the only thing either team has to worry about though.
Both the Jets and Bills rank among the league leaders in fumbles recovered with five and four respectively. When both teams are not picking opposing quarterbacks off, they’re knocking the ball right out of his hands for a fumble. Luckily, both teams have just one lost fumble each and their running backs have done a great job holding onto the ball through eight weeks.
Both teams are coming into their Week 9 matchup expecting a hardcore battle. The Buffalo Bills have played very smart football thus far and it has resulted in a spectacular start for the perennial disappointments. The Jets struggled early, but a two-game winning streak before a much-needed bye has them rejuvenated and primed for a march towards their third-straight postseason appearance.
For years, this has been a meaningless game for the Buffalo Bills. This year it means a lot more. With offensive threats Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson, and a great defensive unit, the Bills are tough to beat, but this week’s game will come down to who can force the big turnovers—and most importantly, who can capitalize on them.