When the Bills run
With two 100-yard games in two starts, RB Willis McGahee has added a new dimension with his ability to gain extra yards after contact and finish runs with power. His vision and quickness allow him to bounce outside when the middle is clogged. Travis Henry has been a Jets killer throughout his career. He's expected to get more playing time today, but Bills will rely heavily on McGahee to eat clock and move chains.
With NT Jason Ferguson and DT Dewayne Robertson able to neutralize interior linemen, speedy LBs Jonathan Vilma, Victor Hobson and Eric Barton usually have free path to ball. Jets are more stout than a year ago when they were 28th in run defense. Their front seven is faster and tackles better. But Bills will test Jets more physically than any opponent to date.
When the Jets run
RB Curtis Martin is having All-Pro year, and Lamont Jordan has emerged as change of pace with exceptional size and speed. They combined for 230 of Jets' 275 rushing yards against Miami on Monday, but Bills held Martin to 77 yards in earlier meeting. Martin had success against Bills running outside behind athletic C Kevin Mawae and guards Pete Kendall and Brandon Moore, who excel on sweeps, traps and counter plays.
It's been nearly impossible to run inside on Bills. DTs Sam Adams and Pat Williams are playing best ball of year. But Jets are confident Mawae, Kendall and Moore can hold their own inside. Jets will need to get blocker on MLB London Fletcher, who had 21 tackles in first meeting. OLBs Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey and SS Lawyer Milloy are terrific in run support.
When the Bills pass
In Bills' two wins, QB Drew Bledsoe didn't make many plays because the weather dictated a focus on running game. But he showed in previous game against Jets that he can be effective when given time to pass. Jets will focus attention on stopping WRs Eric Moulds and Lee Evans. But Jets are weak covering tight ends, so Mark Campbell and emerging rookie Tim Euhus will be live targets for Bledsoe.
Bills' O-line, which didn't allow a sack against Arizona last week, gave up four to Jets four weeks ago. DE John Abraham had three of them and leads NFL with 8 1/2 sacks. DE Shaun Ellis is disruptive off the edge, and Ferguson and Robertson have power to collapse pocket inside. Jets will pick spots with blitzes because shaky secondary gives up big plays when exposed in man coverage.
When the Jets pass
QB Chad Pennington, who had 31 completions for 304 yards in last meeting, is master of play-action fakes and rolling out on bootlegs. Martin and FB Jerald Sowell are leading receivers, but WR Justin McCareins and veteran slot man Wayne Chrebet have become bigger threats. Chrebet had eight catches -- five for first downs for 90 yards -- in Week Five meeting. Top WR Santana Moss is overdue for breakout game. TEs Anthony Becht and Chris Baker present matchup problems, especially in red zone.
Bills have allowed just 82 net passing yards over last three games and are getting good pressure on quarterbacks. Pennington has been sacked only seven times, but two were by Bills DEs Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay. DT Ron Edwards has emerged as inside pass rusher. Pennington picked on Bills safeties in last meeting, but Milloy has helped solidify secondary.
Kickoff return ace Terrence McGee is big play threat Bills haven't had in years. He is having Pro Bowl-type season with his NFL-high 28-yard average and two touchdowns. Bills' average drive start (32-yard line) is best in NFL. Jets have league's seventh-worst kickoff coverage, so don't be surprised if they keep ball away from McGee. Jets offer more resistance on punt returns, but Nate Clements is still dangerous.
Jordan and Jonathan Carter have speed to go the distance on kickoffs, but they face stiff challenge against Bills' third-ranked kick coverage. Moss has done nothing on punt returns. In good weather or bad, Bills P Brian Moorman is as steady as they come. K Rian Lindell has been solid. Jets P Toby Gowin has been mediocre at best, but K Doug Brien has been virtually automatic.
Since two-point loss to Jets, Bills have played better in winning two of last three. Their defense is playing lights out, and McGahee has given offense a needed spark. Team has been limiting mistakes, something coach Mike Mularkey has been emphasizing all season. Bills used bad weather as additional home-field advantage in two wins over Miami and Arizona. But Jets are more equipped to handle cold and rainy conditions.
Hallmark of Jets under Herman Edwards (10-2 in November) is they rarely beat themselves. Jets have league-low five turnovers and league-best plus-12 giveaway/takeaway margin. Pennington embodies Edwards' mistake-free philosophy. In 89 career trips in the red zone, Pennington has 66.7 completion percentage, 33 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Jets (6-1) have benefited from favorable schedule OVER 8 LNs(just one win over an above-.500 team), so they still must prove how good they really are.
Jets overcome Bills and elements for a 20-16 victory.