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Bills vs Jets: 5 ways to wreck Rex Ryan

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Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) celebrates with center Wesley Johnson (76) during the second half of the NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In this long-awaited Bills vs Jets match-up, Rex Ryan leads the Bills (4-4) to his old stomping grounds of MetLife Stadium, in a Thursday night face-off against Todd Bowles‘ resurgent Jets (5-3).

There’s few positive takeaways from last week’s 28-23 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Much has been made in the local media of the Jets’ series of hard-nosed 4th quarter defensive stands against one of the NFL’s young, high-flying offenses.  But the game felt more like a battle of two franchises looking for new, inventive ways to lose.

Brandon Marshall offered some post-game platitudes, saying that a win is a win, and that nobody ever remembers how a team reaches the Super Bowl.  For the record, no player in league history has more receptions without a playoff appearance than Mr. Marshall.

There won’t be many more happy endings if some troubling trends continue.  One can only hope that veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been masking serious injuries with his litany of rookie-like miscues, getting burned week after week by hardly superstar opposing receivers.  Fan favorite Rontez Miles, called to action after injuries to strong safeties Calvin Pryor and Dion Bailey, has been exposed as the practice-squadder he may always be.

Outside linebacker Quinton Coples has been so ineffective that he played bench-warmer for over 70% of Sunday’s snaps — thoroughly out-hustled by hungry Louisville rookie Lorenzo Mauldin.  Coples may wish to spend some extra time on the field after the game trying to curry favor with Rex Ryan — whose bold self-selection of Quinton in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft caused a mutiny in the club’s scouting department, and a toxic front office situation that was only remedied by the hiring of general manager Mike Maccagnan.

Despite the laundry list of deficiencies in their recent back-to-back road losses to New England and Oakland, a Jets home victory over returning villain Rex Ryan would create some elbow room between the Jets and the bottom of the AFC East pack, and would position Gang Green well for a wild-card playoff run in this second half of the season.

Here’s 5 reasons to believe in coach Bowles’ battered bunch over Ryan’s beleaguered Buffalo Bills.

Next: 5. The Amish Rifle

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) is hit after he passes by Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (51) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

5.  The Amish Rifle

Ya gotta love Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Any guy who quarterbacked at Harvard only because he couldn’t get into Arizona State, and then later proposed to his wife Liza in a McDonald‘s after her third or fourth Chicken McNugget, is a hero to any American blue-collar sports fan.

On Sunday at MetLife, “The Amish Rifle” — as he became known as the 2009-2013 Bills flamethrower — impressed with one of the gutsier performances in Jets history.  Numerous reports say that after Thursday night’s game Fitzpatrick will undergo Friday morning surgery for those torn ligaments in his non-throwing thumb.  Few other athletes could have competed with such pain and played so relatively flawlessly.

If “Fitzmagic,” as he’s also been called, had not played on Sunday, Geno Smith would’ve been under center against the Jags.  Given the tight score, Ryan’s crisp execution, and Geno’s typical error-prone style, the final results would’ve likely been quite different.  The New York media and Jets fans would be up in arms, and dreading the inevitable.

There is no doubt now that had not Maccagnan brought in the 11-year-veteran QB, this would have become another lost Jets season.  Fitzpatrick, now with his sixth NFL franchise, has given this roster, and this fanbase, the necessary boost to feel good — not just about the rest of this still-young 2015 campaign, but also about the future.

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets center

Nick Mangold

(74) on the sidelines against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4.  “The Wounded Warriors”

The Jets have serious injury concerns.  Calvin Pryor and Dion Bailey are out, as is likely Antonio Cromartie and perhaps Buster Skrine.  The extent of these injuries will likely push them to finally activate 2013 #1 pick Dee Milliner — John Idzik’s ill-fated replacement for Darrelle Revis, arguably even a step down from Mike Tannenbaum-Rex Ryan 2010 #1 pick Kyle Wilson.  But at this moment, Milliner may not be one of the team’s top six cornerbacks, or one of their top 53 players.

Devin Smith has been banged up all season.  Let’s just hope he is not yet another Jets second-round bust wide receiver (a la Stephen Hill, Alex Van Dyke, Ryan Yarborough or Reggie Rembert).  Former Patriot wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has been a nice addition, with a proven ability to make big plays.

Stevan Ridley may finally see his first action of the season, with Bilal Powell yet to return from his sprained ankle.  But one has to wonder why offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has not yet incorporated the ex-New England running back into the offense.  It’s either a matter of Ridley’s health, or the fact that the organization feels he just replicates the comparable skill sets of Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy.

With reliable kicker Nick Folk out for the season after a freak injury to his right quadricep during last week’s game warm-ups, the Jets auditioned booters like Billy Cundiff, Kyle Brindza and Garrett Hartley, before signing Randy Bullock, the former Houston Texan 2012 fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M.  The Bills will not be afraid to test the special teams tandem of Randy Bullock and punter Ryan Quigley — who despite a very rough season, filled in admirably, pulling double-duty in a desperate situation.

Coach Bowles and company better come up with some answers to all these gaping holes in the lineup to dominate against the intense physicality of the Buffalo Bills.

Next: 3. In The Trenches

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; The New York Jets defense lines up against the Buffalo Bills offense during the second half at Ford Field. Bills beat the Jets 38-3. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

3.  In The Trenches

The Jets have learned the hard way that six-time All-Pro center Nick Mangold is as close as they come to irreplaceable.  His fill-in, former Steeler and recent practice-squadder Wesley Johnson, has performed serviceable, but he cannot move the pile enough for Ivory’s rushing game to succeed.

The lingering injuries to right guard Willie Colon has led to plenty of field action by Idzik 2013 third-round choice Brian Winters — who was so underwhelming against the Jaguars this past Sunday that converted right tackle Brent Qvale, an undrafted Idzik find, filled in for 26% of the offensive snaps.

And Maccagnan cannot be pleased that this year’s fifth-rounder lineman Jarvis Harrison had to be dropped this week from the active roster, or that his cherished undrafted free agent gem, Clarion University LB/FB project Julian Howsare, did not pan out.

On the plus side, starting tackles D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Breno Giacomini and left tackle James Carpenter have been solid if unspectacular.  But if Mangold still can’t give it a go Thursday night, expect the Jets to have difficulty rushing the ball against the Bill’s behemoth front seven.  The Jets’ offensive line must really focus on protecting their ailing quarterback from taking a severe beating by a vengeful Buffalo squad.

Next: 2. Run To The Hills

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) carries the ball in front of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (90) during the second half of the NFL game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2.  Run To The Hills

This contest will come down to the running game, especially in terms of field position and clock management.  The Bills’ lethal rusher LeSean McCoy may not be able to play, but do not discount Karlos Williams, solid against Miami last week after a Week 8 concussion.  Even backups Boobie Dixon and Daniel Herron have displayed elusive skills.

If the Jets’ defensive secondary can cover, expect to see lots of long scrambles by Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who looked strong last week after missing two games with a sprained MCL.  With fleeting Jet Percy Harvin recently placed on injured reserve, expect to see much more of receiver Sammy Watkins, finally starting to show flashes of his projected elite status.  Jets’ defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers should also lose some sleep over Monmouth alum slot receiver Chris Hogan and tough Dolphins cast-off tight end Charles Clay.

The best formula for the Jets to set the tone would be to effectively run the ball on offense, for their venerated defensive front-four to wipe that smirk of the face of the Bills’ controversial left guard Richie Incognito, and to introduce Mr. Taylor to the cold, hard polyethylene “FieldTurf” of MetLife Stadium.

Next: 1. Rex In Effect

Oct 22, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan at press conference at the Grove hotel prior to the NFL International Series game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Rex In Effect

Any Jet fan even remotely familiar with Western New York will understand that Rex Ryan is the perfect coach for Buffalo.  He is the ideal cheerleader for the region’s beat-down sports market.  It seems to be a nice marriage, between the former Jets coach’s blathering preseason trash-talk and the Bill’s fanbase.

Rex’s false hope has been expressed in spades in Buffalo — be it his churlish need to build a team of “bullies,” or with his “chew on this” to his former employers by selecting Geno Smith’s jawbreaker IK Enemkpali as a team captain for this week’s coin toss.

Rex deserves to get crushed on the field for such a classless move.  But then again, his IK choice is no more ridiculous than his locker-room-losing decision to drop his 300-pound All-Pro defensive ends into pass coverage.

Next: Jets survive to fight another day

Despite Ryan’s rep as a player’s coach, the fact remains that no Jets starters followed him up the Thruway (Mathew Mulligan, Percy Harvin and IK Enempkpali don’t really count).  And now he has already alienated Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus, who represent over $200 million in combined salary commitments.

If New York’s ballyhooed defense can’t hold another opponent under 350 yards of total offense, like they haven’t in nearly a month, there is no chance for the home team.  However, if the Bills lose this game and fall below .500, expect the titanic Ryan’s ship to start taking on water.  The Jets would really love to stick it to their old boss.

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