Sunday's game at Buffalo has a unique twist no matter which way you look. Whether on defense, offense, or special teams, when the clock starts, there's an interesting story around every corner.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the core of the Jets' corps, is slated to match up against fellow Miami alum Willis McGahee. McGahee, the workhorse running back for the Bills, has accounted for 80% of his team's carries and 161 rush yards. While McGahee entered the NFL as the 23rd pick in 2003, Vilma was drafted 12th overall by the Jets out of "The U" in 2004. This season, he leads the Jets with 19 total tackles while his counterpart McGahee has yet to light up the scoreboard – something extremely rare in his successful playing career.
Some may argue that due to McGahee's smaller frame, he may have finally been worn down by a league that seems to generate bigger defenders on a yearly basis. Vilma, who has played with or against McGahee every year since their time in Miami, was quick to deny such rumors.
"No, McGahee doesn't wear down," said Vilma. "If you had a guy that would wear down, it might be easier, but he runs hard."
Switching sides, Chad Pennington and his offensive line will be up against a stingy defense which includes one of the hottest sack artists in the league. Buffalo defensive end Ryan Denney racked up three sacks last week against the Miami Dolphins and his third sack gave the Bills a total of 10 already this season. The young Jets' line will get a stiff challenge against an undersized, yet relentless Bills' defensive front.
"You are not going to have a lot of seven-sack games - you wish you would," said Bills coach Dick Jauron of his week two victory at Miami. "A lot of that was circumstance, and they played hard. We got some of the breaks, but they worked awfully hard, and those games don't come around often, it just kind of occurred."
The most intriguing battle inside this divisional game may come in the special team's game. Buffalo's Bobby April and New York's Mike Westhoff are two of the top special teams coordinators in the NFL. The Bills' special teams have been dominant over the past two seasons, placing them among the league's best in each year. After two games, they remain dangerous as ever.
Second year wide receiver and punt returner Roscoe Parrish has hit the ground running in 2006. His 12.0 average return yards ranks him fourth in the AFC, including a 26 yard return last week in Miami. With such devastating speed, special teams co-captain Matt Chatham, 6'4" 250, can only joke about catching the young Miami product in an open field footrace.
"They're always faster than me, so that's never going to change regardless of who we're playing," said the sixth year veteran. "Parrish is pretty scary. He's considered one of the most dangerous players in Miami (Hurricane) history. With him and Terrence, this is a week where we just have to have good coverage entirely."
By Terrence, Chatham is referring to Terrence McGee, who is also an imposing threat in the Buffalo return game. The fourth year pro has 26.4 yards per kickoff return to place him sixth in the entire league this season. Since his rookie year in 2003, McGee has accumulated 111 returns for 3,053 yards and four touchdowns – three of which in 2004. His kickoff return average of 27.5 yards per return ranks second in club history behind O.J. Simpson who finished at 30.0.
Westhoff's group continues to make game-changing plays as well. Last weekend, defensive end Bryan Thomas blocked a fourth quarter New England field goal which kept the Jets within striking distance of the Patriots. Lost in the midst of the euphoria following the Jets win in Tennessee was Justin Miller's critical 41-yard kickoff return, setting his club up near midfield before their winning drive.
For those who know Westhoff, his fiery character is congruent to his coaching style. Westhoff, 58, is one of the few elder statesmen on a generally young coaching staff and owns quite the resume. Whether on the practice field or sidelines, he is a charged-up individual.
"Mike is a pretty fired-up guy," said Mangini of Westhoff. "You are looking for consistency and he's consistently fired up. That's great. He does a really, really good job with our group in terms of scheme and players."
Matt Chatham, who is a Jets' special team's co-captain, says Westhoff is always up for the big games.
"He loves the challenge - we think that way too," said Chatham. "You can't just call yourself the best; you need to go out and do it. These are the weeks where you really try to move up the rankings in the NFL."
Aside from McGee and Parrish returning punts and kickoffs for the Bills, Chatham also talked about All-Pro punter Brian Moorman, who has six punts inside the opposing 20, ranking him first in the league in that category. When Moorman's game is on, it's nearly impossible for team's to obtain good field position, thus changing the entire landscape of the game.
"I think what have to understand is there are going to be fewer opportunities," said Chatham. "But when those opportunities come you really can't miss them. There may be only one or two balls out of seven or eight or so that you actually have a chance to return on and you can't just have an average return. It makes the guy really dangerous – he can change the game."
Running back Derrick Blaylock and his wife Kristen gave birth to Tori, their fourth child last night – or as Mangini announced in his press conference, "The stork did land yesterday." The father of four welcomed in his third son at their home last night and as expected, has not been able to have much sleep since. "I got a little bit of sleep," he admitted. "But he was up most of the night. It was the first night and he was pretty hungry."
Friday Injury Report Jets Doubtful: OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Questionable: CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), WR Tim Dwight (thigh) & OL Pete Kendall (thigh)
Probable: *DL Dave Ball (hand), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (ankle) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen
Bills Questionable: S Matt Bowen (shin) & LB Takeo Spikes (hamstring)
*Denotes players who participated in practice