Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills' game against the New York Jets Thursday night at MetLife Stadium:
1. Don't allow themselves to stub their collective toe in prime time.
Do we need to mention what happened when these teams met on Thursday night last season? Just in case anyone forgot, the Bills found a way to allow journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, their former quarterback, to carve them up in as embarrassing a loss as any they've suffered in recent memory.
The Bills can't permit the euphoria over a 5-2 start or their 21-12 season-opening victory against the Jets on Sept. 10 take away from their focus during an already limited time of preparation for the rematch. They have begun to command a large chunk of respect from the rest of the NFL. The fastest way to lose it is to fall to the 3-5 Jets in front of a national television audience.
Josh McCown has shown he is capable of performing better than he did in the opener, when he threw for 187 yards and had two interceptions. The Bills can't let him do a Fitzmagic on them.
2. Put together another effective rushing attack.
The Jets rank 27th in the NFL against the run, a trend of porousness established on Sept. 10 when LeSean McCoy's 110 yards on the ground led the Bills' season-best 190-yard rushing day. McCoy ran for 151 yards in last Sunday's pounding of the Oakland Raiders, his second strong outing in a row but only his third of the season.
McCoy and his offensive line seemed to have found their groove with a mixture of inside and outside runs that not only have been tough for opponents to counter schematically but also have helped position blockers to win most of their one-on-one battles. Fullback Patrick DiMarco is another factor in a vast improvement from the four games that followed the opener.
The Bills' rushing attack, which was the NFL's best the past two seasons, still has room to get better. But in climbing into a tie for eighth place in the league, it is making the sort of progress that should do plenty to complement a team whose success is driven by defense.
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison needs to be as persistent as possible in keeping the ball on the ground and letting the Bills' line try to impose its will on the Jets' defensive front.
3. Tyrod Taylor keeps performing effectively, as well as efficiently.
Taylor's ability to take good care of the football continues to be his trademark. The fact he has thrown only two interceptions in seven games has done plenty to allow the Bills, with their remarkably opportunistic defense, to lead the NFL with a turnover ratio of plus-14.
It also speaks to his unwillingness at times to challenge defenses with his passing arm.
Taylor has played some of his best football the past two weeks, spending noticeably more time working from the pocket behind some of the best protection he has had in awhile. Still, he ranks 26th in the league with 1,343 passing yards and 16th with eight touchdown throws.
As much as the Bills need to get their run game rolling, Taylor shouldn't hesitate to attack the Jets' 20th-ranked pass defense. But it also will take the same sort of exceptional help his overachieving receiving corps gave him against the Buccaneers and Raiders. Whether Kelvin Benjamin, the big target the Bills acquired in Tuesday's trade with the Carolina Panthers, can help only a day after joining the team is unknown.
With or without Benjamin, though, Taylor should be able to take care of business against a bad defense.
4. A healthier secondary should mean more playmaking.
The Bills have an incredible streak of four consecutive games with at least three takeaways. Keeping that going would seem difficult, if not impossible, but the Bills' secondary figures to be even stronger than it was against the Raiders.
Safety Jordan Poyer, arguably the most talented member of the Bills' defensive backfield, is expected to be back from the knee injury that kept him out of the Oakland game. The bad news for the Bills is that cornerback E.J. Gaines will miss his second game in a row with an injured hamstring, and there's a drop-off in talent with Shareece Wright taking his place opposite rookie Tre'Davious White.
However, with the Bills mostly relying on their front four to generate pressure, the secondary can use maximum coverage to create minimal space for pass-catchers. Those chances should be even better with Poyer pairing with fellow safety Micah Hyde.
Nevertheless, seeing the Bills' 11 interceptions grow against McCown, who has been picked off only seven times and has completed 70.5 percent of his passes, won't be easy.
5. Sean McDermott, who has hardly looked like a rookie head coach so far, continues to make the right moves with so little time to prepare for a game.
The key for McDermott and his staff is recognizing the need to employ streamlined offensive and defensive game plans because they simply don't have the chance to open the playbooks wider.
As tempting as it might be to want to do more, McDermott has to trust that less will, in fact, be more with his team spending as much quality time as possible through the couple of days of preparation it has had.
On offense, it probably means a whole lot of handoffs to McCoy, with Taylor working some play-action throws and perhaps getting the green light for more designed runs than he has in recent games because of the likelihood of the Jets lacking sufficient time to work on sophisticated scheming to stop them.
On defense, it probably means leaning heavily on the NFL's third-ranked run defense to physically dominate at the line of scrimmage, a little less mixing up and disguising of coverages while asking linebackers and defensive backs to hold their own in one-on-one matchups.