by Mario Granata
If you are a student of the NFL you will quickly realize that there isn’t going to be a lot of mystery when the Buffalo Bills travel to take on the New York Jets Thursday night at Met Life Stadium. There are however some red flags and things to look for before tuning in to see the second divisional game for the Bills in a 4-day span.
Todd Bowles vs. Greg Roman
In 2013 and 2014 when Bowles was a defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, they game planned against each other 4 times. The 49ers won 3 out of the 4 matchups, however it wasn’t a easy road for Roman to score points against Bowles. The Buffalo Bills are currently averaging 350 yards per game offensively, which is right in line with a Greg Roman coordinated team. When he faced Bowles, the 49ers managed 369 yards per game. This number might seem line a solid game, but when you consider that the Arizona Cardinals offense turned the ball over 10 times in those 4 games, it throws up a red flag for the ability of Roman to game plan against Bowles. When you couple the fact that the 49ers scored an average of 22.3 points per game in those match-ups, having been gifted 10 extra possessions, it makes any Bills fan feel uneasy, especially this one.
Rex Ryan vs. Chan Gailey
Now, the history is very apparent for Bills fans. When Gailey was the coach for the Bills and Ryan was the coach for the Jets, Ryan held a 5-1 record against the Bills in those games, holding the Bills under a Gailey AND Ryan Fitzpatrick team to under 300-yards per game. The blueprint is there for the Bills to have a very strong defensive showing Thursday, if history plays a part in anyway. Another interesting stat was that the Buffalo Bills turned the ball over to the Jets 16 times in those 6 games (or just under 3 per game). If this trend continues, and coupled with the Bowles vs. Roman connection, Ryan and the Bills are going to need those extra possessions to put up points against a Jet defense that is #4 in the league in yards allowed.
LeSean McCoy’s Shoulder
Many Bills fans in the 716 (as well as fantasy owners all across the nation) are hoping that the shoulder injury to McCoy isn’t as serious as it looked. The concern for Bills fans shouldn’t be when he is carrying the ball against the Jets, because of how elusive he is, but more so when he is not carrying the ball. When the Bills pass the ball and McCoy is assigned to stay in the backfield, look to see the Jets bring pressure to his side to truly test how that shoulder really is. Picking up the blitz will cause more damage to an already injured shoulder than any of his runs. That being said, what role will the “deranged rhino” play in the game for the Bills? Will we see a heavy dose of Karlos Williams early and often to try and bring an extra safety in the box so that the vertical passing game can open up?
The Buffalo Bills offensive line, which has been much improved with the additions of John Miller and especially Richie Incognito are doing more than what is showing up on Pro Football Focus. The Bills have been able to run the ball late in games, even when they have a lead and teams know that they are going to run. That can either be attributed to the opposing teams fear of the pass game, the blocking scheme of the Bills, or could it be the more obvious, that the Buffalo Bills offensive line are just wearing down teams and are able to break open Williams and McCoy in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Some things to ponder before the Bills look to go 3-1 in the division on this Thursday.