NEWARK, N.J. – The Bills hit prime time Thursday night looking to vault to the top of the AFC East.
A victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium would get the Bills to 6-2 for the first time since the last Super Bowl season and into a tie with the New England Patriots. The Bills would actually be ahead of New England based on a better division record, with a pair of meetings between the two teams coming in December.
Before we get there, however, here are all the details you need for Thursday's game, plus five things we'll be watching for:
• TV: NFL Network. Announcers: Jim Nantz (play by play), Tony Romo (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Bills lead, 60-53. The Bills have played 113 games against the Jets, which is tied for the most against any opponent with the New England Patriots.
• Uni watch: It's the color rush game, but don't worry, it won't be Christmas colors again. The Bills will be wearing all-white uniforms.
• Bills injury report: Out: TE Charles Clay (knee), CB E.J. Gaines (hamstring). Questionable: LB Ramon Humber (thumb), S Jordan Poyer (knee). Jets injury report: Out: RB Lawrence Thomas (concussion). Doubtful: S Terrence Brooks (hamstring), T Brandon Shell (neck). Questionable: CB Morris Claiborne (foot), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, foot).
• Point spread: The Bills are 3-point favorites, according to the website footballlocks.com.
• Did you know? The Bills' +14 turnover margin is the highest by a team through the first seven games of a season since the Cincinnati Bengals had a +16 margin in 2005.
• Next up: The Bills will enjoy their "mini bye" before facing the New Orleans Saints at home in Week 10.
Here are five things to watch against the Jets:
1. Does Kelvin Benjamin make his debut? Acquired Tuesday in a deadline trade with the Panthers, Benjamin passed his physical Wednesday and accompanied the Bills to New York. General Manager Brandon Beane left open the possibility of Benjamin playing, even if it's in a limited role. The team's other receivers are healthy, so it's not like Benjamin has to be rushed into the lineup.
2. How much healthier is the secondary? The Bills already know they won't get cornerback E.J. Gaines back from a hamstring injury, but they might see safety Jordan Poyer return from a one-game absence due to a knee injury. He's listed as questionable, but told reporters he's "ready to go" earlier in the week. That will be a big boost against a Jets' passing attack that has been surprisingly formidable this year.
3. Will Ramon Humber send Matt Milano to the bench? The Bills have maintained that Humber will get his starting job back when he's able to return from a thumb injury that has kept him out of the past three games. Milano, however, has been a big factor in the Bills' success, with an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown in recent games. Coach Sean McDermott called it a "good problem to have" recently when asked if Milano had played his way into a spot in the lineup. At the very least, the Bills should be confident that their rookie linebacker can provide good depth behind Humber.
4. Will the pass rush be able to get home? Buffalo's sack numbers have dipped in recent weeks. That wasn't a huge surprise against the Raiders, because Oakland's quarterback gets the ball out so fast. In those situations, the Bills need to be able to cover well, which they did for the most part. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Jets quarterback Josh McCown try to follow the same game plan to neutralize Buffalo's pass rushers. Nevertheless, it's important for Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson to at least make McCown uncomfortable in the pocket. That job should get a little easier because the Jets are likely going to be without their starting right tackle, Brandon Shell, because of a neck injury.
5. Can the team get off to a better start? The Bills rank last in the NFL in first-quarter scoring with just six points on a pair of field goals through the first seven games. For a team that's not built to come from behind, that's troublesome. It would be nice for the defense to get some scoring support early.