It's Fan Appreciation Day at the Meadowlands, and that means prizes and giveaways in the stands, some celebrities to wave to, a fan field goal challenge at halftime and a new siren sound to pump everyone up to make noise.
But ask the fans and they'll agree on the one gift atop their collective wish list: a win over the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets will do everything in their power to deliver. And the stars are certainly aligned well. The Green & White are angry coming off a two-game road losing streak after opening 3-0. They're getting the Bills, hurting physically and hurting in the standings after their difficult 6-3 home loss to Cleveland dropped them to 1-4.
But there are no guarantees today, not even from the team of Namath.
"We need a win. We think this is important. We need to get us a win and we're in front of our home crowd," said head coach Rex Ryan. "But we know how Buffalo is. This is a dangerous opponent to play because Buffalo will give everything they have. That's their M.O. I know the season hasn't gone the way they wanted it to, but we don't need them to get well against us."
"You can't look at an opponent's record," linebacker Bart Scott advised. "They're all professionals. The last time I checked, they have some great players. They have two great receivers. We faced two tough backs last week and we'll face equally the same task. You have to pay attention to those guys."
Those backs are Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. The Bills don't run the Wildcat — at least they didn't until Miami gained 110 of their 413 yards on Monday night off of 16 plays that began with direct snaps to either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams — but their two runners have been their prime movers, on the ground and through the air, since Lynch's return from his suspension for Game 4.
But perhaps another treat for today's mostly green-clad fans at the Meadowlands is that the T.O. show has come to town. Terrell Owens has been held to 12 receptions for 202 yards through five games, but the Bills — and Jets — insist he could go off at any time.
"Terrell's been great so far since he walked through this door," said Buffalo QB Trent Edwards said from the Bills' fieldhouse this past week. "He's a winner, he's a competitor. He's one of those guys who wants the ball in his hands from the first snap to the last. That's all you can ask for as a receiver. And I haven't had any problems yet."
There are probably two keys to reining in the Buffalo wideouts. One is the play of CB Darrelle Revis on Owens, something that happened only once before, when Revis, then a rookie, held T.O. to five catches for 43 yards until Owens scored on a 22-yard strike from Tony Romo for the final points of Dallas' 34-3 Thanksgiving win two years ago.
"Now I get to see him twice a year," Revis said, clearly not backing down from the challenge — and not to mention a little irritated himself at being a part of the 53-yard go-route from Chad Henne to Ted Ginn less than a week ago.
On the other side, it appears Lito Sheppard will be good to go after missing the previous 3½ games with a quadriceps injury, just in time to take on Lee Evans on the opposite side of the offense from Owens. And if Jets fans have forgotten, Evans had game-changing catches of 77 and 85 yards (both from J.P. Losman) at the Meadowlands in 2006 and '07 respectively.
To help the Jets' secondary, it would help if the pass rush can generate more than the four sacks it has produced in the first five games.
"Surprised? Yeah, I'd say," Ryan said of the low number of sacks or the fact that for his first time as a head coach or coordinator (a span of 73 games, including playoffs), his defense has gone two consecutive games without a sack. "Buffalo had more sacks against Miami in one game than we've gotten all season. Obviously, we've got to get after the passer a lot better than that."
So there are no guarantees but certainly expectations that the Jets' D will play better. As for the offense, Mark Sanchez will make his sixth pro start, and it's possible he'll be throwing to a group of wideouts, none of whom was one of the Jets' top three WRs on opening day.
That sounds a little bizarre, but consider that Braylon Edwards, as fine as he looked Monday night, just arrived in trade from Cleveland for former No. 2 WR Chansi Stuckey. No. 1 Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) and No. 3 Brad Smith (quadriceps) are both doubtful to play today.
So that could pair Edwards with David Clowney as the starting wideouts — to which Clowney, who played little the first four games, said, "It's a true blessing to be in this position right now" — with Wallace Wright and even possibly Danny Woodhead, if he's active for the game, in reserve.
As troublesome as the injuries are at that position for the Jets, the offense can fall back on a running game led by Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and rookie Shonn Greene, which could be just the ticket in the expected foul weather for at least part of today's game.
The Bills, on the other hand, have really displeased the injury gods. This week they placed starting LB Kawika Mitchell on injured reserve, following the recent IR-ings of CB Leodis McKelvin and TE Derek Schouman. And starters Bryan Scott at safety and Jonathan Scott at right tackle are listed as out. The Buffalo OL could consist of fifth-year C Geoff Hangartner and four rookies or first-year players.
"Unfortunately, we've run into a lot of issues," said coach Dick Jauron. "There's nothing you can say about it except that you've just gotta keep going, find the best way to play over it, and have a lot of faith in the guys that are out in the field."
That faith will have to be strong to overcome the refocused Jets and their loud crowd, all of whom will be seeking the best gift of all for a two-game road losing streak, and that's a division W at home.