NFL Network has the perfect recipe for a ratings soufflé: Start with two division rivals with playoff aspirations, stir in equal parts Kelly green and red coloring (more on that below), add one whole Rex, and bake under the Thursday night spotlight.
Buffalo coach Rex Ryan returns to his home office of the previous six seasons to take on Todd Bowles' Jets. We all suspect Ryan wants badly to win this one against the team that let him go, but he kept to the high road with his comments to Jets media this week: "You know, the Jets have a super-talented team, and I'm fortunate because I have a very talented team right here, and everybody will see that when we bring them to town on Thursday."
As for many of the Jets playing against the coach they once enjoyed playing for, LB David Harris said, "It'll be a strange feeling at first, but once the ball gets kicked off, it'll be back to business as usual."
Business as usual will be the 5-3 Jets (Brandon Marshall: "We just want to get to six") trying to go two games up on the 4-4 Bills and not fall into a 5-4 tie and a tiebreaker down in the AFC East.
Here are seven more points about the Jets-Bills TNF showdown at MetLife Stadium:
1. May the Fitz Be With You
It's another outing for Ryan Fitzpatrick and his wrapped/braced/gloved left thumb that didn't seem to limit him against the Jaguars. He'd love to get Chris Ivory back in power mode, because that would only accentuate an offense that, despite injuries at wideout, has been productive. With Fitz mostly at the helm and Chan Gailey calling the offense (both former Bills, don't you know), the Jets' 23 offensive touchdowns are their most through eight games since the 1986 offense scored 25, and Fitz's TD drive rate is purring along at a career-high 23.1%.
2. Strength vs. Strength
The Jets run defense remains No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed/game, a ranking they've held for three straight weeks and a strength they've displayed since 2013 — in the last 43 weeks, they've been first for 13 weeks and in the league's top 10 for 39 weeks. But they'll be tested by Buffalo's second-ranked rush offense: LeSean McCoy (Harris: "One of the elite backs in the league"), rookie Karlos Williams (110 yards to McCoy's 112 last week) and the designed runs of QB Tyrod Taylor (5.6 yards/carry).
3. Slammin' Sammy
The Jets' nicked-up DBs are very aware of Bills WR Sammy Watkins. He erupted for 168 yards on eight catches against Miami last week and had three for 157 and a TD vs. the Jets at MetLife last year. Darrelle Revis says he presents "every challenge in the book." But one thing: If Watkins goes off for 168 and all other Bills receivers combine for 13 yards (as they did vs. the 'Fins), the Jets would sign up for that. And another: Watkins has sat three of the last five with an ankle injury and was limited in practice this week.
4. Red Zone Rising
There's been concern about the Jets yielding over 1,000 net passing yards in the last three games combined, only the fourth time that's happened in franchise history. But some superpowers remained or returned against Jacksonville. The Green & White are No. 1 in the NFL in red zone offense (75.0% TD rate; Bills defense tied for 19th) and No. 2 in RZ defense (40.0%; BUF offense 16th). And with four takeaways vs. the Jaguars, they're third in TAs (19) and tied for second in turnover margin. All will be important against the Bills.
5. The Rivalry Turns
The usual numbers: Buffalo leads overall, 58-51, winning four of the last five. The Jets lead at home, 28-26, winning four of the last five. More important: In the last three meetings, the Bills are 3-0 and have outscored the Jets by 78 points (118-40) — the largest margin in three straight games by any Jets division foe since the '90 Bills (minus-91) and the fourth-largest since 1970. And in none of the last three games did the Jets hold a lead, the first time that's ever happened against the Bills. These are trends in need of reversing.
6. The Bullock File
Randy Bullock, the former Texans kicker (drafted in part by Mike Maccagnan in 2012), has been working out hard since being cut and got a call from the Jets soon after Nick Folk came up lame last Sunday. Bullock is Jay Feely-sized (5'9", 205) and Folk-accurate (4-of-5 from 50-plus last year). In fact, he hit from 55 and 50 at NRG Stadium last September. The opponent: the Bills. A lifelong Texan, he shouldn't face too-harsh North Jersey weather for his Jets debut (temps in the 50s, no rain, some wind).
7. TNF's Wonderful World of Color
The Jets and Bills are in the forefront of the NFL Nike Color Rush campaign as the first teams to unveil their new Thursday Night Football uniforms. For the Jets, the helmet is white with green chrome and all else is Kelly green — the first time the team has worn Kelly since morphing to Jets green in 1998. The Bills will be in all red. There could be times when the MetLife floor will look like a Christmas tree after the cat climbed up it, but it will be a colorful evening, hopefully with a Kelly green-wrapped W at the end.