Doug Flutie can't be sure what the New York Jets are going to cook up for this week's game, but he knows it's going to be a strange brew.
"You don't know how they're going to line up," Flutie said. "Are they going to be in a five-linebacker set with 20 DBs? What are they going to do? They make you do your homework."
Flutie's exaggeration about 20 defensive backs is understandable, since it seemed like the Jets had that many on the field at times last year.
The Jets and their defensive guru, Bill Belichick, stopped Flutie better than any other team last season.
Flutie was a mere 12 of 30 for 154 yards in the first meeting with the Jets last year -- a 34-12 Jets win. And the Jets held Flutie to 14-of-38 passing for 220 yards in the Week 15 rematch, a 17-10 New York victory in Buffalo.
Overall, Flutie had a 43.4 quarterback rating against the Jets last year, and a 93.2 rating against everybody else.
So the brainpower matchup of Belichick vs. Flutie and Bills offensive coordinator Joe Pendry figures to be huge in Sunday night's AFC East showdown at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Miami and the other teams we played had trouble keeping Doug from throwing the ball well, but the Jets didn't," coach Wade Phillips said. "They shut us down both times last year."
Last year, the Jets effectively used a "spy" on Flutie part of the time. They kept two linebackers in coverage; one guarded Flutie and the other guarded the running back in the Bills' backfield. Linebacker Chad Cascadden was the spy in the Week 15 game. James Farrior did some spying in
the first meeting.
Flutie says he knows the proper way to counter that tactic.
"Last year what they did was try to maintain a three-man rush," Flutie said. "And when we'd spread them out, they'd spy with an extra linebacker. Basically, as long as I drop back, make my read and deliver the ball, they're wasting a player.
"But if they can get good coverage and I have to move or hang onto the ball, or they get good pressure with the three guys, now if I move there is an extra guy there (waiting for him)," Flutie said.
The Jets' tactics are a function of their talent.
The Jets have ordinary defensive linemen but an excellent, deep corps of linebackers. So they utilize them. Mo Lewis and Farrior start outside in their base 3-4 defense. Bryan Cox and Marvin Jones start inside. In the first meeting last year, the Jets played a handful of plays in a 4-4 scheme. They also had about a dozen plays with seven defensive backs.
A fair amount on third down, they will leave just one defensive lineman on the field, and put two linebackers (Cox and perhaps Lewis) on the defensive line as pass rushers. Then two more linebackers -- Cascadden and either Farrior or Roman Phifer -- will join six defensive backs in coverage.
Flutie said the Jets like to get a lot of players walking around in "the box" (the area of the defense between the two offensive tackles) to create confusion on the offense about who is rushing and who is covering.
On two plays in their season-opening loss to New England, the Jets had six linebackers on the field.
"Six linebackers . . . that's the first time we've ever done that," Cascadden said. "Maybe it's the first time in NFL history, I don't know."
Another reason the Jets' defense was so good is their cornerback group, led by Aaron Glenn, is outstanding. Glenn, Otis Smith and Ray Mickens did a great job in man-to-man coverage against the Bills last year.
"They have a good scheme, but in their man-to-man against us, they won the battles," Phillips said. "That gave us more problems than anything."
The problem for the Jets, however, is Smith is injured. Mickens moves up to starter, Marcus Coleman is No. 3 and Kevin Williams probably will be No. 4 this week in the dime defense. The Jets missed Smith last week against New England. Drew Bledsoe scorched the Jets for 340 yards passing. The Patriots had great success using a four-receiver set.
The Bills practiced for 2 1/2 hours Thursday. . . . Sunday's game was sold out in time for the local television blackout to be lifted. The game will be shown on ESPN and Ch. 49.
GROUNDED BY THE JETS Doug Flutie's numbers as Bills QB in two games against the Jets and 13 regular and postseason games vs. the rest of the NFL: Att Comp Yards TDs INTs Rating Flutie vs. Jets 68 26 374 1 3 43.4 vs. Rest of NFL 364 219 2,997 21 11 93.2