The Jets are on a three-game losing streak, with a 3-5 first-half record, and the "must-win" questions are being run up the flagpole. In come the hot Bills (5-2 with four wins in their last five) for the Green & White's only national game this season on Thursday Night Football.
Depressing spot, Josh McCown?
"Oh, no, heck no," the Jets' always upbeat quarterback said. "You don't want to lose three in a row, but this is a great opportunity to go play on Thursday night. I'm excited. It's going to be fun and it's a division game and you want to get them back. So no, I'm not tired, I'm not down at all. That's not how this locker room works."
Can the Jets feed off of Josh's enthusiasm, break out their Kelly green Nike Color Rush unis and break out of their slump vs. their longtime AFL/AFC East rivals? Here are seven points to consider:
1. Thursday Night TrendThe Jets are 29-27 at home in the regular season vs. Buffalo, taking that lead by winning five of the last seven, including last year's 30-10 finale. This is also the fourth time overall and the third straight year that the teams will meet on TNF. The road team has prevailed in the previous three (Jets at Toronto 19-13 in 2009, Bills at MetLife 22-17 in '15, Jets at New Era 37-31 last year). If you believe in trends, this isn't promising for the Jets. If you believe trends are made to be broken, this is the spot under the primetime spotlight.
Head Behind the Scenes for a Look at the Color Rush Uniforms the Jets Will Wear vs. Buffalo on Thursday Night Football
2. Seeking BalanceMatt Forte suggested the Jets should've stayed with the run longer vs. Atlanta. Yet in running for 43 yards on 22 carries, they fell to T-22nd in the NFL in rush yards/game. Considering Buffalo's run D has risen to third, and with dry weather in the forecast, McCown (back over 70% accuracy, third among QBs) will hand off as usual but no doubt will also probe the Bills' banged-up secondary by distributing to Robby Anderson (team-high eight 20-plus catches, three vs. the Falcons) and his sure-hands receivers, including Forté (28 targets, 25 catches).
3. Always TurnoversThe Jets' toughest turnover opponent year in, year out are the Patriots, but this year Buffalo is a thundering herd. The Bills, a top-10 TO margin team the past three seasons, lead the NFL after eight weeks with a plus-14, built on only three giveaways — one LeSean McCoy fumble, two interceptions by Tyrod Taylor — and 17 takeaways — SS Micah Hyde leads the way with an NFL-tops five INTs. The Jets, after double-digit minus margins four of the previous five seasons, have gotten to minus-1 this year. Thursday night will be a major turnover test.
4. Double-D vs. McCMcCoy and the Buffalo rushing offense began the season No. 1 in the NFL with Shady's 110 yards and the Bills' buck-90 in the opener against the Jets. Their run game cooled to 17th after Week 6, but the last two games McCoy's been reenergized at home with 91 and 151 yards. He hasn't been as impactful on the road, and that, combined with those all-important run fits from LB Demario Davis and the Jets' 27th-ranked rush defense give the Green & White a chance at preventing him from wrecking this game on the ground.
5. Galloping from the GateThe Jets roared to their third straight out-of-the-box touchdown as Josh McCown, who hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jermaine Kearse for scores the previous two weeks, found Eric Tomlinson running free vs. Atlanta. The last time they had three straight opening-drive TDs was in 2008. Now they're shooting for four in a row, something done only once in franchise history, in the four games after the legendary Joe Namath vs. Johnny Unitas shootout in 1972. Once more would be helpful to get the MetLife crowd rockin' and put the Bills back on their heels early.
6. Limping Toward the FinishThe Jets' endgames have been something different. They've scored only 20 fourth-quarter points, 32nd in the NFL, and their minus-56 point final-frame differential is 31st ahead of Indianapolis' minus-67 and is the third-lowest margin by any NFL team in any quarter. Because of this shortcoming, they've lost two 14-point leads and two fourth-quarter leads in the last three weeks of shots to their collective ribcage. "We have to stop taking body blows," says HC Todd Bowles, "and start delivering them." As in this game.
7. Always Field PositionDespite the Sunday loss, the Jets limited the damage by Matt Ryan's dynamic offense with a solid field position edge — drive starts from their 37 compared to the Falcons' 26. That will come in handy again, which leads us to Lachlan Edwards, who punted lights-out in the rain. His 52.4-yard gross vs. Atlanta was the best of his career and fifth-best in franchise history, while his 45.8 net was his second-best and No. 8 in team annals. The Lach Ness Monster and his cover team need another big game to keep PR Brandon Tate and the Bills penned up.