The AFC East is the New England Patriots’ to lose, that much we know. But the rest of the AFC appears to be fairly wide open as far as the wild card spots go and that makes Thursday Night Football’s clash between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets all the more intense. Add in Rex Ryan’s return to the Meadowlands and the divisional remnants in this matchup, and we may have one of the better Thursday night clashes of the year on our hands.
Hailing from the AFC East, both the Bills and Jets obviously have a storied history. It’s been a pretty even race through the years, with the Bills taking the lead, 58-51 in the series. Recent history has Buffalo taking control, though, as the Bills have won three straight and four of the last five. That includes a sweep in 2014, with the Bills marching into MetLife Stadium and getting a big 43-23 win. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Buffalo hadn’t won at New York since an overtime thriller in 2009. The other key note obviously is Rex Ryan had been at the helm of Gang Green prior to this year, so this series gets quite the shake-up as these two divisional rivals butt heads for the first time in 2015.
Bills Preview (+2.5)
Everyone thought the Bills were destined for the Super Bowl after dismantling Andrew Luck and the Colts in week one. As it turns out, Indy just wasn’t very good and Buffalo’s once vaunted defense has looked rather pedestrian for large portions of the 2015 season. Buffalo can still stop the run pretty well, but their pass defense has been atrocious. That being said, they started the season breaking in the unproven Tyrod Taylor at quarterback and he’s also missed time with injury. So have LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin. And Harvin was just placed on injured reserve. If the Bills are healthy and playing their best ball, they really do look borderline special. But is that going to be the case on the road in a huge prime time affair? There’s the rub.
Jets Preview (-2.5)
New York has done exactly what they set out to in 2015: run the ball, play sound defense and only lean on Ryan Fitzpatrick when they absolutely have to. It’s worked out beautifully, as the Jets have had just three odd losses: one to a desperate Eagles squad, a second to the Patriots after Brandon Marshall dropped a huge touchdown and the third two weeks ago when Fitzmagic went down with a hand injury. New York has had some o-line issues the past couple of weeks, but they’ve mostly stuck to their guns and things have panned out about as good as anyone could have hoped. Now they face their former coach in a huge divisional tilt that could easily end up making or breaking their 2015 season. They’re at home, though, and there isn’t a better scenario they could have hoped for at this point in the season.
On the NFL Moneyline odds at Betonline the NY Jets are at -130 and with the point spread the Buffalo Bills are getting +2.
This is a massive game on so many levels. New York comes in ahead of the Bills (4-4) at 5-3, so a win here would give them a shot at staying in the race for the division and it would also give them a full two game lead over their rivals, plus the tie-breaker when it comes to the wild card spot for the playoffs. In other words, this game is a big deal and both sides are going to know it and feel it.
So, the question that needs answering is, does Rex Ryan get the Bills to rally behind him to take down his former squad, or his Rex’s old team simply better now that Todd Bowles is at the controls? To be frank, this is a tough game to call and Vegas agrees with a narrow 2.5 line handed to the home team Jets.
The harsh reality is that both teams defend the run pretty well and both would prefer to run the ball effectively. We’ve seen Jets running back Chris Ivory get stuffed a ton the past two weeks, which has a lot to do with his offensive line play. Can the o-line rebound at home against the Bills? It seems like a tall order.
Some ATS numbers to consider: the Bills have been dominant inside the division in their last five games (4-1 ATS) and are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings with the Jets. New York has been impressive by the betting numbers too, however, as they’ve been 4-0-1 ATS in the division across their last five battles and a solid 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 games, overall.
But there is another factor here: Ryan Fitzpatrick faces his former team, too. While everyone will be talking up Rex going against his old Jets, Fitzpatrick will have some demons of his own to exorcise. There’s a solid chance to does that with the matchup in his favor, plus Buffalo is on the road and as banged up as you can be.
I’m taking the Jets in a barn-burner, and they should cover the +2 Spread.