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NFL Preview - Buffalo (5-5) at N.Y. Jets (5-5)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It's only been three weeks since the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets last faced one another. It only seems like three years.
Flying high atop the AFC East heading into a Week 9 game with the visiting Jets, the Bills head to MetLife Stadium in a decidedly different state for the Week 12 rematch.
And that's not just a reference to the Jets' residence in New Jersey.
Now standing third in a four-team division, Buffalo visits the Jets in the midst of a three-game losing streak in which they've been outscored, 106-26. The slide began with the 27-11 loss to New York in Orchard Park on Nov. 6. And they'll do so without one of their premier offensive weapons, running back Fred Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve this week after suffering a broken right leg in last Sunday's 35-8 setback at Miami.
Jackson, who ranks third in the NFL with 934 rushing yards, will be replaced by 2010 first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who has run for 398 yards and one touchdown on 95 carries in 24 career games.
"My feeling is that if you've got a team that is that fragile, you're in trouble," Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. "I believe we have guys that understand about fighting through tough times and fighting through adversity."
The Bills are two games behind division-leader New England and a game off the pace of Cincinnati, whom they lost to by a 23-20 score on Oct. 2, in the race for the AFC's second Wild Card spot.
Buffalo has not had a playoff game since the "Music City Miracle" loss to Tennessee in January of 2000 and hasn't won in the postseason since beating Miami on Dec. 30, 1995.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the Bills average 32.8 points while going 4-1 to begin the season, but they've scored at just a 14.3 points-per-game clip since.
"We're trying to figure out some answers, and looking to see some results this week," he said.
Fitzpatrick emerged as a legitimate No. 1 when he threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2010. He's completing a career-best 63.6 percent of his passes this season, though his touchdown-to-interception ratio has dropped to 16-to-14 through 10 games. He threw 15 interceptions in all of 2010.
Eleven of Fitzpatrick's 14 interceptions this year have come in the last six games, and he was picked off twice while going 15-of-31 for 191 yards in the Week 9 loss to the Jets.
Top target Stevie Johnson has just seven catches in three games after grabbing 39 in the first seven. He has 11 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown in his last three appearances against New York.
The Bills have been outscored by a 122-45 margin in four games against the Jets since last beating them in October of 2009.
Truth told, New York hasn't exactly been blazing either since its Week 9 win.
The Jets have dropped from a surging 5-3 to a stumbling 5-5 in two games since, taking a 37-16 home throttling by the Patriots before a Tim Tebow-engineered 17-13 loss at Denver five days later.
"I think everyone kind of feels like it's now or never," Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. "We have to play well, and we have to play well now."
New York was 8-2 after 10 games last season and 4-6 in 2009, but ended both with appearances in the conference championship game -- ultimately losing at Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, respectively.
The Jets face one team with a winning record, the New York Giants, in their final six games.
"In this game, you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "You have to move on, and you have to get ready to play. This is a good opportunity for us to get on the right track and try to go on a roll, because we have to. We can't afford to lose any more games."
The Bills lead the all-time regular season series with the Jets by a 53-48 count, but New York has won four straight and six of the last seven bouts between the divisional foes and as previously mentioned, handed Buffalo a 27-11 defeat at Ralph Wilson Stadium back in Week 9. The Jets also routed the Bills by a 38-7 count at MetLife Stadium in the 2010 regular season finale and pinned a 38-14 home loss on the Bills earlier that year. Buffalo's lone victory over that seven-game stretch took place at the Meadowlands in 2009, a 16-13 overtime verdict in which Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw five interceptions.
Buffalo won the only postseason matchup between the franchises, a 31-27 triumph at Shea Stadium in a 1981 AFC First-Round playoff.
Gailey is 0-4 against the Jets for his career, which includes a loss while in charge of the Dallas Cowboys in 1999. New York head coach Rex Ryan is 4-1 lifetime versus Buffalo and has won all three of his head-to-head meetings with Gailey.
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
Fitzpatrick needs two touchdown passes to join Hall of Famer Jim Kelly (237), Joe Ferguson (181), Jack Kemp (77) and Drew Bledsoe (55) as the fifth Bills quarterback with 50 career scoring passes. Spiller has seven carries for 21 yards in three career games against the Jets, while catching one pass for seven yards. Johnson had 84 receiving yards in Buffalo's loss to the Jets, while backup quarterback/kick returner Brad Smith spent five seasons with the Jets from 2006-10 before joining the Bills in the offseason. Tight end Scott Chandler had a career-best 71 receiving yards in last week's defeat.
For the Jets' defense, linebacker Calvin Pace had a sack and a forced fumble against the Broncos in Week 10, while inside linebacker David Harris had an interception the team's earlier win over the Bills. Cornerback Darrelle Revis has four career interceptions against Buffalo and safety Eric Smith leads the team with 57 tackles. Rookie end Muhammad Wilkerson has 27 tackles and a sack.
Statistically speaking, the Bills are 10th in scoring offense (23.7 ppg), 14th in total yards (346.4 ypg), 18th in passing (220.8 ypg) and eighth in rushing (125.6 ypg). On defense, the Jets are 18th in points allowed (21.7 ppg), seventh in total yards allowed (317.0 ypg), sixth against the pass (200.1 ypg) and 17th against the run (116.9 ypg).
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Sanchez needs three touchdown passes to tie his career-high of 17 set in 2010 and aims for a 25th regular-season win as a starter, having compiled a 24-17 record over his three years. In his past two games against the Bills, running back Shonn Greene is averaging 96.5 rushing yards per game. For his career against the Bills, running back LaDainian Tomlinson averages 89 rushing yards per game, while backfield mate Joe McKnight totaled a season-best 121 scrimmage yards (59 rushing, 62 receiving) in the Denver loss. McKnight leads the NFL with a 36.1-yard kick return average this season as well. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes aims for a third consecutive game with a touchdown catch against the Bills and counterpart Plaxico Burress is averaging 15.2 yards per catch in his past three November games, gaining 182 yards on 12 receptions over that span.
The Bills' defense is tied with New England for the AFC lead with 15 interceptions, and safety Jairus Byrd has four interceptions in five career games against the Jets. Linebacker Nick Barnett leads the team with 78 tackles and rookie safety Da'Norris Searcy, a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft, led the team with 11 tackles in his first career start last week. Rookie end Marcell Dareus has 28 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks in his debut season.
By the numbers, the Jets are the 17th in scoring (22.8 ppg), 22nd in total yards (314.5 ypg), 20th in passing (217.9 ypg) and 26th in rushing (96.6 ypg). Buffalo on defense is 26th in points allowed (25.3 ppg) and total yards allowed (372.4 ypg), 24th against the pass (250.0 ypg) and 20th against the run (122.4 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
New York's Greene had 19 carries for 76 yards in his last game against the Bills and is probable after leaving the Denver loss with injured ribs. His impact is important to the Jets' chances.
Fitzpatrick has been slumping since signing his $59 million contract extension and will need to regain his early-season magic to get the Bills back in the playoff race.
A disappointment since his early selection last season, Spiller gets a six-week chance to reinvent himself to the Bills and their fans. The running game was important to Buffalo's early-season success, and the team needs the youngster to be at least a capable fill-in for Jackson.
As in Week 9, the Jets seem to have matchup advantages in both directions. And with Spiller now in the driver's seat carrying the ball, those edges seem magnified. With Fitzpatrick and Sanchez both slumping, the team that gets the best quarterback play gets a significant leg up. If all else is tied, the Jets having home field carries the day.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 28, Bills 14
11/25 12:11:52 ET