The scenarios are simple.
If the Jets go to Buffalo and win (or tie), they're in the playoffs, just like '09 (six years to the day from beating Cincinnati), just like '02 (vs. the Brett Favre Packers). If they lose and Pittsburgh loses (or ties) at Cleveland, they back into the postseason. If they lose and Pitt wins, they go home early for the fifth straight year.
All fan-favorite sidebars — trying to get past Rex Ryan's Bills to make the playoffs for the first time since Ryan's Jets reached them in '09 and '10, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall trying to nail down their first playoff berths in their long careers, Fitzpatrick being 1-6 as a starter against Rex defenses — just don't matter.
"It's crazy," Fitz said, "but I have to focus on my job and kind of what's at hand and not think of all the outside storylines."
"It could have been against anybody," head coach Todd Bowles said of Game 16. "If we need one win to get in, we have to try to win the ballgame. It's not about playing against Rex or Buffalo or anybody else, it's about us taking care of us."
Will Todd ever lose that trademark focus of his? "I'll be excited if we win," he replied. "For an hour."
Here are seven more points to ponder about what we hope is the Jets' final game of only the 2015 regular season against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday:
1. Bills' Recent Edge
Buffalo leads this original AFL series all-time, 58-51 overall and 31-23 at home, most of them at "the Ralph." And while the rivalry turned the Jets' way under Ryan's reign (winning eight of nine from 2008-12), it has turned back to the Bills as they've taken five of the last six, including the 22-17 win in the November return of Rex to MetLife. "I just wasn't pleased with the majority of my performance" that night, Fitzpatrick said. "I think we've seen some progress."
2. One on One
This game pits the Jets' No. 1 rushing defense against the Bills' No. 1 rushing offense. It would seem the Jets will benefit from featured back LeSean McCoy (knee) today being declared out, but Buffalo has a trio of big gainers available in rookie RB Karlos Williams (5.7 yards/carry), QB Tyrod Taylor (5.5) and Mike Gillislee, signed as a free agent in November after the Cards cut him from their practice squad. All Gillislee has done is average 10.4 yards/carry with runs of 60, 50, 30 and 19 yards the past four games.
3. The Tyrod Balance
While the Jets are seeking an AFC Wild Card berth, the Bills have their own wild card in Taylor. The QB has drawn the Jets' respect for his metrics — his 100.7 passer rating is fifth among qualifying QBs, his TD drive rate is basically the same as Fitzpatrick's (22.8% to 22.6%), and his turnover drive rate is third in the league. DC Kacy Rodgers: "They're still averaging 150 yards on the ground, 210 in the air. I think that's really how they want to play it. ... He's managing the game well and making good decisions."
4. Mo Pressure
In the first meeting, the defense contained Taylor (six carries, 12 yards, four sacks, minus-26 yards) with conscious effort and aggressive playcalling. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (career-high 12 sacks, first Pro Bowl) led the charge with two sacks. The Jets' 26 sacks over the last eight weeks lead the NFL and their pressure even without takedowns has been consistent. They'll need to continue that to prevent longball connections between Taylor and Sammy Watkins (18.6 yards/catch, tops among qualifying receivers).
5. Penalty Pals
The Jets, after a rough yellow flag start to the season, have tapered off nicely and in fact from Game 5 on have the second-fewest penalties (58) and by far the least penalty yardage (410) in the NFL. The Bills, meanwhile, have not reformed and are 32nd with averages of 9.3 penalties and 80.3 yards marked off against them every game. Chief culprit: RDE Jerry Hughes, who leads BUF with 5.0 sacks but also leads all NFL front-seven players with 14 penalties.
6. Opportunity Coming to Pass?
There was a good chance no matter the opponent that the Jets' offensive troika of Fitzpatrick (one TD pass to set the franchise record of 30), Marshall (58 yards, 1 receiving TD to tie franchise marks) and Eric Decker (23 yards for 1,000) would reach milestones. But the Buffalo pass defense has been hit with the recent IR-ing of Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks and Aaron Williams, and Game 9 takeaway star Bacarri Rambo (knee/shoulder) and Ronald Darby have been hampered with injuries. And the Buffalo sack rate is 32nd in the league.
7. Fast Start Recommended
One Western NY curveball is always January weather. Sunday in Orchard Park isn't expected to be harsh, but snow is in the forecast, flurries are in the offing at kickoff, and Fitzpatrick, K Randy Bullock, et al., need to be on guard for 15-mph winds that can rattle the uprights and flutter the football at the wrong times. A fast Jets start could diminish wind-aided drama at the finish. NFL teams that score first with a touchdown in the first quarter this season have won 71% of those games (97-39). And when the Bowles Jets have scored the first TD, no matter when, they're 7-1.