Bilal Powell, who grew up about 40 miles away from Raymond James Stadium, will start his seventh game of the season against the Buccaneers. Powell, who leads the Jets with 390 yards on the ground and is averaging 4.7 yards a carry, isn't approaching this contest any differently after veteran Matt Forte was ruled ou*t.
*"I've been preparing this week like I do every other week," Powell said. "We go in with three backs, but this game is full of injuries, so you always have to be ready. The game can swing and things can go different ways. I just prepare and I'm looking forward to the game."
Sunday will mark the Lakeland, FL native's first trip to Tampa in his seven years in the NFL and he'll have roughly 40 friends and family in attendance.
"I was getting phone calls about the game when the schedule first came out," Powell said. "I look forward to doing it and it'll be a good game for us before we go to the bye."**
Forté Hopes to Return After Bye
After rushing for a season-best 77 yards in the Jets' win over the Bills, Forté's right knee swelled up and it got worse from there. After not practicing this week, Forté was officially ruled out of Sunday's contest.
"I've been playing with swelling in my knee for a while," he told reporters Friday. "It just got to a point where it's getting significantly worse, obviously coming from a Sunday game to a Thursday game, it's less recovery time. It just got worse on me."
The 31-year-old Forté, who rushed for 813 yards last season, had an arthroscopic procedure on the same knee last winter. After the bye in Week 11, the Jets will return to action at home vs. the Panthers on Nov. 26.
"Not that concerned," he said about the knee. "You deal with injuries throughout the year. At running back, it's obviously tougher because you get a lot of injuries. I'm just focused on healing up, so I can get to the next game we have after the bye week."
If the swelling decreases, Forté would figure to return to action soon. But that's a question that will have to be answered over time.
"I can't guarantee that I'm going to be doing that, but that's what I want to happen obviously," he said. "It's just a matter of getting the swelling out of the knee where I can be effective on the field."
Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has come on lately even as he continues to battle shoulder and toe injuries. Over the past three games, the 6'4", 315-pounder registered 15 tackles, three of which were for loss, two sacks, six quarterback hits and three pass defenses. General manager Mike Maccagnan told the media Wednesday Wilkerson broke a toe earlier in the season, but the seven-year veteran is moving better and he's set for a week of rest after Sunday's matchup against the Buccaneers in Tampa.
"I think as of late, he's probably feeling better health wise and I think he has performed well in the last few games," Maccagnan said. "Obviously, we still have seven games to go so hopefully he's trending in that direction. In fairness to him, he toughed out some injuries and missed some practice time, but again he never missed games so he kind of fought through it, which we felt very good about."
Life Without Kerley
Sunday will mark the first game in 2017 the Jets will play without wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who was suspended by the NFL for four games. As a result, rookie wideouts ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen are slated to receive more playing time. Additionally, the Green & White will need to fill Kerley's void as a punt returner.
"They got in there in the game and I thought both of those guys did pretty good," said offensive coordinator John Morton of the rookies' play in Week 9 against the Bills. "I think Hansen had a little more reps. I thought he did a really nice job of doing what he was supposed to do. They've had a good week of practice so far."
Familiar Faces, Familiar Places
There will be familiar foes Sunday, but the Jets are mainly focused on leaving Raymond James Stadium with a win. Quarterback Josh McCown spent the 2014 season in Tampa and will be squaring off against former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's replacing the injured Jameis Winston (shoulder).
"I've kind of had some practice at it, so it'll just be another game," McCown said of facing off against a former team. "I'm looking forward to competing against them. I know some of those guys and I appreciate those guys.
"But when we snap that ball, it will be fun to compete against them. It's all business after that," he added. "We have a plan for our team and what we're trying to get accomplished, and that's what we're focused on."
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was drafted by the Bucs in 2014 and released in the third week of the 2016 season, hopes he can help the Green & White earn a second consecutive victory overall.
"It's a great opportunity to get to 5-5," said Seferian-Jenkins, who leads the Green & White with 33 catches. "They're a very talented squad on defense and offense. If we don't bring our A game, they'll get a win. It's a huge game for us and we're going to be very prepared. Their record is not indicative of how good that team is."
On Saturday, Americans will observe Veterans Day by honoring and thanking all those who served in the United States Armed Forces. The appreciation extends to all Military Families and Jets shared some of their thoughts this week.