Ryan Fitzpatrick will return to Buffalo for the first time as an opponent since leaving after the 2012 season. He has already faced the Bills multiple times but hasn't been back at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Emotions could run high. This is where he expected to spend the rest of his NFL career at one point.
"It'll be the first time I've been back there in a different jersey, playing in front of those fans," Fitzpatrick said on a conference call to New York reporters Monday. "So it has some extra meaning to me because I was there for four years and the fans were so great to me and my family. There's a little bit of extra meaning there, but I don't think there needs to be, with the significance and the importance of the game and what's at stake for us."
Asked what the highlight of his Bills career was, Fitz pointed to the 5-2 start in 2011 when everything seemed to be heading in the right direction. Fitzpatrick was on fire, earned a contract extension... and then the season unraveled.
The Bills finished 6-10, went 6-10 the next season and then drafted EJ Manuel in the first round. Now, it's Tyrod Taylor at the helm for the Bills and Fitzpatrick is one win away from lifting the Jets into the playoffs.
Looking at the Bills' defense, Fitzpatrick cited the new personnel due to injuries. He said he still expects an "aggressive" Rex Ryan defense.
"It'll be a big challenge for us offensively," Fitzpatrick said. "It always is going up against his type of defenses, the way they're coached up and the way that they play."
Since losing to Buffalo and Houston earlier this season, Fitzpatrick has been on a roll. Through the Jets' five-game winning streak, he has completed 131 of 203 passes for 1,525 yards with 13 touchdowns, one interception and a 106.5 passer rating. This past Sunday, he rallied the Jets to a win over New England Patriots. So now, he heads back to Western New York with a chance to beat the team that let him go.
What's been the key this past month? Fitzpatrick believes the Jets are just finding their chemistry on offense at the right time. Both Brandon Marshall (101-1,376-13) and Eric Decker (75-977-11) have had banner seasons. When linebacker IK Enemkpali broke Geno Smith's jaw in two places, vaulting Fitzpatrick into the No. 1 spot, the Jets became a playoff contender.
"I think just confidence and not just confidence for me personally," Fitzpatrick said. "But as a team our confidence level is higher. The guys around me have been playing great.
"We've made more plays and I think that stems from just being more confident as a team."
It looked like Fitzpatrick's season was set to take a 2011-like turn south when the Bills won at New York, 22-17, on Nov. 12. He had the ball deep in Bills territory with a chance to win it late. But facing a second and 2 from the Buffalo five-yard line with 4:29 to go, New York couldn't capitalize. Chris Ivory was stuffed. Fitzpatrick threw to Eric Decker for a loss of one. And his fourth-down pass to Kellen Davis fell incomplete.
On the Jets' final drive, he threw a pick to safety Bacarri Rambo.
When Fitzpatrick popped in the tape of that game on Monday, he admitted it was tough to watch.
"Some of the missed opportunities and things that we had, you can't dwell on it. You move on from it, get better and learn from it. I think we have. Obviously, they got us in the first one and we've got to play a better game. I've got to play a much better game this time around."