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NFL Preview - Buffalo (1-4) at N.Y. Jets (3-2)



By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Three little words.

To fans of the NFL's other 31 teams, they're a punch line.

But to green-clad supporters of the league's AFC representative from the Garden State, they're a catalyst for disgust, despair and despondency.

Not to mention a good way to earn a punch in the mouth from Vito in section 301.

"Same old Jets."

Erased from applicable lingo when Rex Ryan and Co. started the season with three straight wins, the perpetual tag has begun to reappear as of late, especially in the aftermath of the team's humbling four-point loss to a one-win team - piloted by a novice quarterback - on Monday night in Miami.

It dredged up ugly memories of New York's 2008 debacle - when an 8-3 start that had prompted Super Bowl talk disintegrated into a 1-4 stretch run that cost Ryan's predecessor his job and sent his one-year mercenary quarterback fleeing to Minnesota.

Predictably, the new coach brushed aside such talk while proclaiming all is still well.

"I'm sick of that 'same old Jets' thing," Ryan said, "because it's not the same old Jets. We make no excuses. Never have, never will. We've got to expect to win. That's the biggest thing we've talked about as far as the culture of the team - that we've got to expect to win."

If he values tranquility, expectations had better equal reality this week.

Back home after the unsuccessful two-week business trip, New York returns to host another one-win divisional opponent - the Buffalo Bills - who've free- fallen precipitously since an initial two weeks that had yielded a reed-thin loss to New England and a 13-point win over Tampa Bay.

Since, it's been a 20-point loss to New Orleans, a 28-point loss to Miami, and, in the ultimate embarrassment, a 6-3 loss to previously winless Cleveland in which Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed just 2-of-17 passes on the Bills' home turf at Ralph C. Wilson Stadium.

As a result, the only wagon-circling has been to gather momentum for Dick Jauron's dismissal.

And Wilson, the team's 90-year-old owner, didn't exactly jump to the coach's defense on Monday.

"(Sunday) was so bad that it's hard to make a decision right now," he said. "I'm not going to make any decisions during the middle of the season, at least right now. I don't know. Whatever I say now is going to be twisted around. If I say exactly what I think, whether it's right or wrong, it's going to be twisted around, so I just don't want to talk about it."

Aside from stagnant offense and coaching crises, medical issues haven't helped matters either.

Linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs were each placed on injured reserve this week with knee problems requiring surgery and are lost for the season.

Cornerback Terrence McGee and safeties Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott are listed as questionable this week, as are offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and linebacker Paul Posluszny.

And wide receiver Josh Reed is only probable with a leg injury.

Still, those healthy enough to suit up are steadfastly keeping the red, white and blue faith.

"I think we do have enough leadership on this team and I think a good sign of it is being able to stay together through times like this," wide receiver Lee Evans said. "It'd be easy for guys to peel off and do different things. But guys are really into what we're doing, what we've got and trying to make it work."

SERIES HISTORY

The Bills lead the all-time regular season series with the Jets by a 52-44 count, but were swept by their longtime division rival in a 2008 home-and- home. Buffalo was a 26-17 home loser when they met Gang Green in Week 9 of last season, and dropped a 31-27 heartbreaker during a visit to the Meadowlands in Week 15. Buffalo swept the 2007 home-and-home, including a 13-3 decision at the Meadowlands.

In addition to leading the regular season series, the Bills won the only postseason meeting between the franchises, a 31-27 triumph in a 1981 AFC First-Round playoff.

Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron is 4-4 in his head coaching career against the Jets, including a 1-1 mark in his tenure with the Bears (1999-2003). The Jets' Rex Ryan will be meeting both Jauron and the Bills for the first time as a head man.

WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL

Not much has been happening all season for the Bills, who sacked coordinator Turk Schonert in favor of former long-time backup QB Alex Van Pelt late in the preseason. Buffalo has been outgained by 50 yards per week through five games and has an average time-of-possession deficit of nearly seven minutes as well. Young quarterback Trent Edwards continues to learn on the job and has done well on the road, completing 61.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and an 80.4 passer rating outside of Orchard Park. In his backfield is Marshawn Lynch, who's gashed the Jets for 103.5 yards per game at Giants Stadium and went for 127 yards against them in their last meeting last December. He started for the first time in 2009 last week, returning from a suspension to rush for 69 yards and catch passes for 56 more. Elsewhere through the air, wideout Terrell Owens leads the league with 110 touchdown catches since 2000 and aims for a third straight game with a TD against the Jets. Teammate Evans has also fared well against New York, averaging 83.7 yards against the Jets in his last three meetings. He is 97 yards short of 5,000 for his career.

As lineman Kris Jenkins put it, the trash-talking Jets got "a big dose of shut up" in the loss at Miami, allowing 413 total yards after entering the game among the league's stingiest defenses. First-year starter Chad Henne completed 20-of-26 passes and was neither sacked nor forced into any turnovers. And the Dolphins repeatedly rallied in the fourth quarter after the Jets' offense had provided late-stage leads. As a result, the team's average yards allowed has swelled to 304.8 per week, while linebacker David Harris remained its sack leader with two. As a unit, the Jets have managed just four sacks all season. Four players are tied with an interception apiece. Harris also leads in tackles with 40, while fellow linebacker Calvin Pace, who returned from a four-game suspension last week, recorded two sacks in his last game against Buffalo. Cornerback Darrelle Revis goes for a fourth straight game with an interception against the Bills, while safety Kerry Rhodes can repeat his one-INT performance from last December's meeting as well.

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL

In spite of the loss, two words resounded when describing the Jets' ball-moving efforts against the Dolphins - Braylon Edwards. Acquired from Cleveland in a mid-week trade, Edwards nonetheless started five days later and was the team's most effective aerial target, catching five passes and one touchdown, while having another score reversed on replay. Edwards caught eight passes for 104 yards in his last game against Buffalo, while with the Browns last November. Across from Edwards will presumably be Jerricho Cotchery, though he was severely limited by a hamstring injury last week and is only listed as questionable for the Bills game. Off to a quick start in 2009, Cotchery is averaging 97.5 receiving yards at home and leads the team overall with 24 catches. Brad Smith and David Clowney were used extensively last week as well. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has touchdown passes in four of five games and has posted an 89.7 passer rating at home, with three TDs and one interception. On the ground, he primarily goes to workhorse Thomas Jones, who looks for a third straight game with a TD against Buffalo. Jones, who shares touches with elusive threat Leon Washington, averages 102.6 yards when he carries the ball at least 20 times. He leads the AFC since the start of last season with 18 TDs.

It's hard to figure where the defensive mindset of a team might be coming off a loss in which it gave up just six points and two completed passes. That's where the Bills sit this weekend. Buffalo's foes have averaged 340.2 total yards per game and the Bills have been hurt by an inability to create enough mistakes to offset a flaccid offense. The turnover ratio sits at minus-6 through five weeks, with the "D" having recorded four interceptions and a fumble recovery, along with 12 sacks. Standout end Aaron Schobel has three sacks to lead the team and has also grabbed one of the four interceptions. He has four sacks in his last three meetings with the Jets and is second on the franchise's all-time sacks list - trailing only Hall of Famer Bruce Smith. Also up front, fellow end Chris Kelsay will play his 100th career game. Linebacker Keith Ellison leads through five weeks with 44 tackles, including 25 solos, while rookie safety Jairus Byrd posted his first career INT against Cleveland.

FANTASY FOCUS

A Bills defense that was already iffy against the run got even worse with the Mitchell and Buggs injuries, meaning Jones might be a good play for the Jets. Washington has been maddening to owners, but, again, could be on the verge of a breakout game. Edwards is a strong selection, as is tight end Dustin Keller, in spite of just one pass thrown to him against the Dolphins. For Buffalo, the three straight teams to generate 100-plus rush yards against New York ought to be a guide, meaning Lynch is a starter. On defense, the Jets tend to make things happen against the Bills and have scored defensive touchdowns in two of the last three meetings.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Forget the first three wins and the subsequent two losses, folks. This is the initial barometer game for Ryan and the new regime in East Rutherford. On paper, and with the context of the season's first five weeks, the Jets should be better. Add the facts that they're coming off a frustrating loss, going home and facing a weakened divisional foe, and they should be good and mad, too.

It's the NFL and all wins are good wins, but a dominant performance in which losing is never an issue is what's expected. Anything resulting in a nail- biter, or, gasp! ... a loss ... and Ryan's honeymoon will be ground to a halt by the teeming New York media.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 27, Bills 10

10/15 10:51:28 ET