Sunday is Salute to Service day at MetLife Stadium. Will the Jets call in the Marines? Actually, they're planning to get back on track with the personnel on hand against the visiting Buffalo Bills.
"It'd be huge to get a division win, go into the bye week feeling great, then coming back the next week to try to get another win," WR Jermaine Kearse said of the home game ahead, and not looking too far past the bye to the Patriots on the horizon. "I think it's a must-win because it's the next game. It's the next opportunity for us to showcase who we are and what we can do. And there's no doubt in my mind we'll be able to do that."
The Jets have lost three in a row to drop to 3-6 and entered the week with a 22-player injury report. Head coach Todd Bowles announced a temporary change in his quarterback starter (below) but may welcome back CB Trumaine Johnson (quad) for the first time in six games and was optimistic for his other DNPs.
The Bills, meanwhile, less than a year removed from their first playoff appearance in 18 years, are on a four-game skid to 2-7. Might the Jets overlook their Western New York brethren? Kearse said, logically, "I don't know why we'd be looking at records."
And Bowles is ready for the Bills' best shot: "We've got our work cut out for us."
Here are seven more points of interest for Sunday's game (kickoff 1 p.m. ET):
1. Rivalry Rejoined
After a lull from 2013-15, the Jets have reenergized this original AFL rivalry. They've won three of the last four overall to trim the Bills' all-time advantage to 61-54, and they've taken six of the eight games the teams have played at MetLife Stadium since 2010 to climb back into the lead at home, 30-28. The last two North Jersey meetings went solidly to the Green & White, 30-10 in the 2016 season finale and 34-21 on Thursday night last year, built on 194 rushing yards and seven sacks of then-Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor. But Taylor moved on to Cleveland, so the Jets will try to win a new QB battle. But it's not the one it was shaping up to be in September.
2. Who Are the QBs?
Back then, this game looked to be a matchup of the third selection of the draft, Sam Darnold, vs. the No. 7 pick, Josh Allen. But Bowles said Darnold (foot strain) will not start and he's handed that assignment to Josh McCown, who had a career year as Jets starter last season, including some economical passing in that TNF win over the Bills. Either Darnold or Davis Webb will be the backup. As for Buffalo, will it be Allen, itching to play the Jets although his braced right elbow limited him at practice this week? Or Derek Anderson, still in the concussion protocol? Or Nathan Peterman, 0-2 as a starter? Or Matt Barkley just in case. Talk about needing a scorecard.
3. Down on Their Luck
The Jets may be struggling but Buffalo is really struggling. The Bills are last in the NFL in yards/play, passing yards/game, passing yards/play, giveaways (22), defensive touchdowns allowed (4), fourth-quarter points (23), second-half points (53), total points (96) and point differential (minus-145). A minus-81-point margin in their second quarters is the worst in any quarter in the NFL this season. Their eight total touchdowns are the fewest after nine games in the league since 2000. This is the kind of opponent a team might look past ... at its peril. The Vikings are still wondering how the Bills came to their home in Week 3 and left with a 27-6 victory.
4. Dangerous D
And don't go to sleep on the Bills defense. The unit is led by hot rookie MLB Tremaine Edmunds (who missed last week vs. Chicago with a concussion) as well as vets with familiar names such as LBs Lorenzo Alexander and Matt Milano (NFL-leading three opponents' fumble recoveries) and linemen Jerry Hughes (three forced fumbles), Shaq Lawson and old reliable Kyle Williams. Their D is ranked third in the NFL in four key categories: total yards/game, total yards/play, pass yards/game and pass yards/play. Kearse: "They have a good defense. They do a lot of different, weird things with pressures, and they've got a good secondary, so we've just got be ready."
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5. Men on the Run
With QBs in flux, it may come down to who has the more potent ground game. Isaiah Crowell hasn't regained his 219-yard Denver form but he ran better in Miami than he had in three prior games, and Elijah McGuire gave the offense a jolt with his 6.7-yard average on 10 offensive touches. Similar to "Cro," LeSean McCoy's also been trying to find daylight — in his last three games, he's run for 1, 13 and 10 yards. Last year McCoy showed a split personality vs. the Jets, gaining 159 yards from scrimmage in the opening win at Buffalo, then 25 yards at MetLife. DC Kacy Rodgers left no doubt which one he'd prefer: "The thing that scares you is Shady, of course."
6. Special Factor
Field position again reared its ugly head in the Jets' Miami loss, a combination of the offense's 2-for-13 on third downs and Dolphins punter Matt Haack's seven inside-the-20 punts — tied for most in the NFL since 2000. That led to a minus-14.0-yard difference in starting field position, thus extending the Jets' record since 1996 in games with a minus-12-yard difference or greater to 0-32. Could field position improve vs. the Bills? Possibly. Andre Roberts remains No. 1 among NFL punt returners with a 16.9-yard average. And Buffalo, after IR-ing rookie P Corey Bojorquez, re-signed Colton Schmidt, who had a 28.0-yard net on five punts vs. the Bears.
7. Familiar Foes
There are former Jets all around Buffalo's building. Remember Vlad Ducasse, the Round 2 pick in 2010? He's started the last 22 games at guard for the Bills. Chris Ivory is still pounding the rock alongside McCoy at RB. WR Terrelle Pryor, signed last week, caught two passes against Chicago, and LB Julian Stanford started for Edmunds vs. the Bears. Also, the offensive coordinator is Brian Daboll, a Buffalo native who worked with Chad Pennington and Brett Favre as the Jets' QBs coach in 2007-08. It would behoove the current Jets and their fans to disabuse all their former teammates of any thoughts that they're among friends as soon as possible after Sunday's kickoff.