These are not the same old Bills. The rejuvenated team in Buffalo is enjoying a renaissance season of sorts, sitting atop the AFC East along with the New England Patriots at 5-2. The Bills boast the highest-scoring offense in the conference, riding the emergence of RB Fred Jackson and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
As good as the Buffalo offense has been, their defense has been equally impressive. The Bills currently lead the NFL in interceptions (14) and overall takeaways (18). Their turnover differential of plus-9 is best in the AFC.
"It will be a challenge for us," said LG Matt Slauson. "They're a much-improved team, and they've got a lot of big guys on that line now."
With four sacks through their first seven games, the Bills defensive line was striking fear in nobody. And then the Bills hosted the Washington Redskins in Toronto and changed the opinion of many. In the 23-0 blowout of the 'Skins, Buffalo tallied 10 sacks, the most by any team in a single game all season.
As if the swarming secondary wasn't enough to worry about, now there is another focal point for the Jets offense.
"It's a matter of executing and really sustaining our blocks," said Slauson. "In the past, we've had a great game plan going in. We've been really committed to the run, and our execution has been great."
Slauson puts it mildly. In the previous four meetings between the rivals, the Green & White have averaged 279 yards per game on the ground. Included among those four games was a 318-yard outburst in 2009 when RB Thomas Jones set the franchise record with 210 rushing yards in a 16-13 overtime loss at the old Meadowlands stadium.
"It's a great feeling," said Slauson of the Jets' success against the Bills in the run game. "It's almost like we've put the team on our backs. But it's everything — the tight ends, the receivers downfield. The receivers don't get enough credit because they're the ones that spring us from an 8-yard gain to a 50-yard gain."
The Bills are again having difficulty stopping the run this season. Opposing teams are averaging 4.9 yards per carry, the highest allowed among all AFC defenses. With RB Shonn Greene coming off a season-best performance against San Diego in Week 7, it's fair to assume he will again bear a large workload.
The run defense and gambling secondary of the Bills could mean good things for the Green & White come Sunday afternoon.
"They've been making turnovers because of those big gambles they've been taking," said TE Dustin Keller after Wednesday's practice. "But they can also give up a big play. When the opportunity comes, we're going to make sure it's a big play and not a turnover."
The "big play" was a common notion throughout the locker room on Wednesday, as the offense appears poised to attack downfield.
"Obviously, we would love to hit a 40-yard bomb or a 60-yard touchdown," said Slauson. "The easiest way to go about that is to chew up yards on the ground. We have to make sure, as a line, that we're doing a great job for Shonn and LT [LaDainian Tomlinson], because that will suck the safeties into the box and then we can throw it anywhere."
With a 4-3 record, with upcoming matchups against division opponents, every game is critical for the Jets. Still, Sunday's game will be an important barometer by which to judge both teams as they play their eighth games of the season.
"We're playing pretty good football," said Keller. "Now it's a matter of keeping that going out of the bye week. From today's practice, all signs show we're going to continue to roll because it was a really good day."