Bills vs Jets: Top 5 players to watch


Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) runs with the ball after a catch against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In prime-time on Thursday night football, the Bills vs Jets game will absolutely be a heated AFC East divisional match-up.

This game is so important for both ball-clubs, the Buffalo Bills (4-4) need a win in the worst of ways and currently sit outside of the playoffs looking in. While the NY Jets (5-3) are currently holding down the 5th seed in the AFC playoff standings and are looking to build some separation.

So the all important question is what players are going to decide this match-up? There are a lot of what-if scenarios with injuries: LeSean McCoy is questionable but expects to play, Sammy Watkins is banged up, and the Jets are hurting in the back-end with several injuries mounting.

Let’s jump right into it and discuss the top 5 most important player that’ll decide the outcome of this game.

Next: 5. Can he keep the Jets' defense on their heels?

Nov 8, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) runs the ball during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo beats Miami 33 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

5. Tyrod Taylor

This guy has been able to do it all for the Bills this season, he’s been a dual-threat quarterback that can beat you with his live arm or his quick feet and elusive mobility. That’ll be a big thing to watch Thursday for the Jets if they can keep him in the pocket and force Taylor to beat the Jets from there. If the Jets can keep him in the pocket, their suddenly electric pass-rush should be able to get there against a below average offensive line.

In the off-season it was a 3-headed battle: Taylor vs Matt Cassel vs EJ Manuel battling it out for the starting gig in Buffalo. Cassel ending up getting dumped and eventually re-signed and then traded to the Dallas Cowboys, Manuel didn’t show enough in preseason to sway the Bills’ front office which led them to putting all their eggs in the Taylor basket. So far it has looked like quite the move and has paid immediate dividends providing the Bills with a dynamic play-maker at the quarterback position they haven’t had in a while.

There are still doubters in terms of Taylor’s ability to continue his production, but the career backup deserves all the praise he’s received so far. For the Bills it’s simple, he has to escape the pocket and make plays. The offense that makes the least mistakes might just win this game and be the difference maker. I think Bucky Brooks, NFL Media Analyst for, put it best with his analysis of Taylor’s game in his latest article “Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills’ offense poised to make serious noise

While the Bills have seemingly asked Taylor to play as a “pass-first” point guard directing a multifaceted offense built around the running game, he’s shown opponents he can make plays as a run-pass threat on the perimeter. From executing zone-read concepts to orchestrating various bootleg and movement-based passes, Taylor creates chaos for opponents with his ability to create big plays on the edges. Although Taylor capably throws the ball from the pocket, it is his ability to create explosive production (gains of 20 yards or more) on unscripted plays that has taken the Bills‘ offense to another level.

Next: 4. One heck of a slot receiver for the Jets

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) celebrates during the first half of the NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

4. Eric Decker

Many labeled this versatile receiver as nothing more then a product of Peyton Manning during his record breaking years in Denver. While some took it the opposite way and said his time in Denver was less about being a product of the system and more about being a product of opportunity. I prefer the latter, Decker has been everything he was hyped up to be: a red-zone threat, a shifty receiver out of the slot, and a excellent route runner.

All of this combined has led to a break out season with the Jets in 2015, he’s already surpassed his touchdown receptions from the entirety of 2014 only 9 weeks into 2015 and he’s bound to get a few more before all is said and done. Here’s the surprising stat of the day, the Jets are the #1 ranked red-zone offense in the NFL, yeah you heard that correctly.

#Jets rank No. 1 in red zone TD conversion percentage.

— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) November 8, 2015

For quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick having Brandon Marshall on one side who is always open for the fade route opportunity close to the goal-line and Decker who is a mismatch nightmare on linebackers and corners, has completely dominated this year for the Jets. Rex Ryan isn’t stupid, he’s going to do everything in his will power to take Marshall out of the game which from experience will more likely then not include some unorthodox methods.

For example, the Jets used Quinton Coples in press coverage last season in an attempt to take away opposing teams #1 receivers and bracket him over the top with a safety or another corner. The Eagles tried that this year using Connor Barwin in a similar role when Marshall got into the red-zone. So if Ryan is successful in reducing Marshall’s impact on the game, Decker has to have a big-day and continue to find openings in the zone coverage and beat his man one-on-one in press coverage.

Next: 3. He's shady but brings an incredible dimension

Nov 8, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

3. LeSean McCoy

‘Shady’ McCoy had a bit of a coming out party last week vs the Miami Dolphins and he showed glimmers of his old Philadelphia days. He ended the day with a season high 112 yards rushing and a touchdown. That was his first 100+ yard rushing performance this year for the Bills and he hasn’t had the debut he was hoping for due to the injury bug and that continues to plague him this week with the Jets on tap.

His status is still very much up in the air though Ryan is optimistic that McCoy will be able to suit up. Ryan had this to say during his weekly press conference in the lead-up to the game via

“I believe he will, I believe he’ll play,” Ryan said. “How significant his role will be? I’m not real sure right now. But obviously we feel good about who we have behind him, with Karlos [Williams] and things.

“If [McCoy] is not up to 100 percent — obviously, you want him to play. It’s a huge game for us. And if he’s healthy, then he’s gonna be out there.”

There is also that guy Rex mentioned, Karlos Williams who isn’t that bad and of course by not bad I mean over 300 yards rushing and a touchdown collector with 5 rushing already this season. Williams is stout and on his own could provide the Bills with a nice spark at the running back position, but let’s be real he’s no ‘Shady’ McCoy. If the Bills are without the services of their all-pro running back it’s going to be tough sledding against the Jets’ #1 rush defense.

Next: 2. This Jet must continue the momentum

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

Lorenzo Mauldin

(55) reacts during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2. Lorenzo Mauldin

The rookie exploded on the scene last week vs the Jacksonville Jaguars, notching 2 sacks and consistently putting pressure on Blake Bortles in the pocket. Now the rookie is looking for an encore performance against the Bills’ potent offense.

Something the Jets’ defense has lacked this season and for the last several seasons is a pure edge rusher, somebody that can create mismatches on their own and get to the quarterback without the exotic blitz schemes, Mauldin is that guy. He’s a breath of fresh air at a position that is manned by the ageless wonder Calvin Pace (who made the play of the game last week, potentially saving the victory).

In a position where the Jets have had disappointment after disappointment, Mauldin looks like he could be the real deal. Most recently the talented hybrid defensive linemen/outside linebacker Coples has had trouble staying on the field reportedly due to the ‘game-plan’. But realistically if you’re a good enough player, you’ll always find ways to get yourself on the field. Mauldin is turning into a nice catalyst on defense.

In this game, it’s going to be important to see whose defense can get after the quarterback, the advantage that the Bills have had in the past (though their sack total is lower then expected so far this year) is their pure pass-rush with their front-four. If Mauldin can continue to disrupt things on one side of the field, then Bowles can unleash his creativity from the opposite side causing a lot of problems for this Bills’ offense.

Next: 1. This Jet must rekindle his old ways

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Ivory

Let’s cut right to the chase…where has Chris Ivory been? 84 yards over the last 3 weeks and that isn’t a typo. The Jets’ offense relied upon Ivory’s brash running style and ever since the Patriots match-up, he’s apparently lost his mojo. For the Jets to beat the Bills, Ivory has got to get back into early season form.

Perhaps another running back could give him a break every other drive or something, if only we had a pair of fresh legs that hasn’t touched the field this season…oh wait a minute we do: enter Stevan Ridley. We signed this guy in the off-season and he has quite the track record in terms of his success on the field (outside of his fumbling issues). So why is this guy not playing?

Next: 3 keys to victory for New York over the Bills

Again, Coach Bowles has cited the game-plan for his inactivity and I made a joke out of it in my article earlier in the week, NY Jets: Still waiting for Stevan Ridley debut. When I was sharing the article across the internet, a fan commented with an idea why Ridley didn’t see the field this past Sunday and shockingly I hadn’t thought about it. Could the Jets be saving Ridley so they have fresh legs for a short week with the Thursday night game?

That’s almost so obvious it just might make sense and maybe that is exactly what Ivory needs, he’s facing 8+ man boxes nearly every time he’s running the football. Of course the Jets’ offensive line issues (Willie Colon placed on IR, Nick Mangold battling through a semi-serious neck injury, and having to rely upon a disappointing array of depth) isn’t helping the cause either. But Mangold is practicing in full and should play which should really help this run game and hopefully get Ivory back over that 100+ yard barrier tonight.