The NFL schedule makers didn’t do the Jets any favors with the early portion of their slate, as their first seven games feature six teams that made the playoffs last season, and the Buffalo Bills -- the same squad that essentially knocked Gang Green out of playoff contention in Week 17.
The combination of short notice, having just two days to prep, a divisional opponent that knows all your moves, and the Rex Ryan factor are all variables that makes this Thursday night matchup (8:25 p.m., CBS) all the more daunting for the Jets.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick noted the challenges, but decided to look at it all as a glass half-full type deal.
“I think physically it’s always tough to play on Thursday. It’s a quick turnaround, but if you can win the game then it’s great. You get the extra rest [and] you sit at 1-1,” he said. “We lost to them twice last year, [so] this is going to be a very big game for us. But I think we’ll be up for it. Physically, we’ve got to do the best we can. The thing about that is, they’re doing the same thing. It evens out because they’re going to feel the same thing.”
The Bills (0-1) are also in need of a win. And like the Jets (0-1), they don’t want to fall into an 0-2 hole in the AFC and even further behind in the division.
Fitzpatrick admitted they “let one slip away” against Cincinnati, and he’s adamant in not letting that happen again. The journeyman signal caller doesn’t have history on his side, though, as he’s 3-8 in his career against Ryan defenses - and his completion percentage barely tops 40 percent.
“I don’t want to start 0-2. I think every game is important for us coming off of a loss,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s tough. It’s not what we wanted. We’ve got a quick turnaround, [so] we can’t feel sorry for ourselves or mope for too long.”
Brandon Marshall never mopes – or feels pressure. The veteran wideout said this game is big, of course, but he doesn’t feel it’s do or die.
“I don’t know what pressure is. It’s just football," he said. "You just have to win them when you have the chance to play ... We’ll watch film to see where we can do better.”
The Jets will definitely need to do better against a Bills team that’s had their number recently.
Metro takes a look at key storylines to follow, as Gang Green tries to get their first win.
What to Watch for:
Red zone issues – Fitzpatrick readily admits the Jets’ scoring problems in the red zone are what ultimately doomed them against the Bengals.
“Us not being able to get touchdowns in the red zone, that’s what hurt us the most. It’s something that we did well last year that we just didn’t do [on Sunday]. We have to score touchdowns, [and] we’ve got to do a better job of executing,” Fitzpatrick said. “That is the biggest difference [between winning and losing].”
The Bills’ defense has talent abound as well, so it won’t be a huge drop off going from Cincinnati to Buffalo. Fitzpatrick has historically fell flat against Ryan’s defenses, so how well the Jets do in the red zone will go a long way in determining the Jets’ overall success.
Protecting Fitzpatrick – Perhaps the red-zone problems were partially related to the plight at right tackle. Ben Ijalana might’ve started, but he rotated with Brent Qvale on Sunday. Bowles said to expect that rotation to continue against the Bills – although he also added he doesn’t want this to be the norm and would like for someone to finally separate from the other. Neither guy was noticeably better or worse than the other, so this could go on for a couple more weeks. Against the Bengals, Ijalana played 39 snaps and Qvale played 32, as they rotated every other series. The reason for this is because regular starter Breno Giacomini is on the PUP list for at least the first six weeks of the season.
Fitzpatrick said there wasn’t much of a difference from his end.
“They did a good job with the way we ran the ball on a few of the drives in the second half. Those guys did an excellent job, I thought,” he said. “The communication was pretty good. When they [Bengals] gave us some weird looks and some tricky stuff in the first half, those guys were dialed in on all the looks and I thought they did a good job with that. I’m proud of the way they played. They fought … I think they did a good job.”
Front-seven pressure – Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor is as shifty as any in the league. Unlike Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a typical pocket passer, Taylor has a lot of wiggle in his game. The Jets’ front seven feasted on Dalton with seven sacks, including five in the first half. They may not get that many chances at hitting the mobile Taylor, so they’ll have to make any chances count when presented. Gang Green will benefit from having Sheldon Richardson back from his one-game suspension, which should make things easier for everyone, particularly Leonard Williams.
“We have great guys up front. And with the addition of Mac [nose tackle Steve McLendon], we expect a lot out of this group. We know what we have. Hopefully we can just keep on going, especially when Sheldon gets back. We’re all excited about that. We’ve seen what we can do without him, and we know that we can do more with him, so we’re looking forward to it,” Williams said, adding he already put Sunday’s personal success in the rearview mirror. “It [his performance] felt good, but I don’t want to let it get to me. I just want to keep playing and just keep building up on the season, keep going forward.”