NEW YORK (AP) — Rex Ryan may be brash, but he doesn’t sound too cocky this week heading into a matchup with the winless Buffalo Bills.
That may be because Ryan’s New York Jets have a chance to improve to 3-0 within the division for the first time in 10 years Sunday when they head to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Ryan entered the season proclaiming that his team expected to win the Super Bowl after last year’s surprising run to the AFC championship game. New York (2-1) seemed to lose some of that swagger in a season-opening defeat to Baltimore, but division wins over New England and Miami have gotten the Jets’ season back on course.
The Jets are favored to make it three straight in Buffalo (0-3), but Ryan is taking a cautious approach against a Bills team trying to avoid its first 0-4 start since 2004.
New York last started 4-0 in the AFC East in 2000.
“That’s what everybody says about it being a trap game,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to watch this team play. They’re in every game. We know what this game’s all about.”
What it’s about for Buffalo is a sense of closure after the surprising release of Trent Edwards on Monday. Edwards started the first two games before Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-30 loss at New England last Sunday.
That was enough for the Bills to apparently feel comfortable with Fitzpatrick for the rest of the year – and end Edwards’ four-season run in Buffalo.
“It wasn’t just one thing, but I think that Fitz did go in and play fairly well,” coach Chan Gailey said.
Fitzpatrick didn’t play well last year against the Jets, going 19 of 48 for 214 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as the Bills split the season series. He entered in relief of Edwards in a 16-13 overtime win Oct. 18, and started a 19-13 loss in Toronto on Dec. 3.
This time, however, he won’t have to contend with Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will miss his second straight game while he recovers from a strained left hamstring. Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Revis with 2:02 remaining in the December matchup, allowing the Jets to run out the clock.
Revis said Thursday that he feels “a lot better” than he did at this time last week, but won’t play until he’s completely healthy. Antonio Cromartie will start in Revis’ spot at left cornerback.
New York quarterback Mark Sanchez had similar numbers to Edwards in the two matchups with Buffalo last season, going 17 of 44 for 223 yards. He had the worst game of his rookie season with a career-high five interceptions – two by safety Jairus Byrd – in the October loss, and left the December victory with a right quad injury.
Sanchez, though, has been outstanding the last two weeks with 476 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions. After not having a three-touchdown game as a rookie, he has turned in two in as many weeks.
“I think without question he’s got a great grasp of our offense, his offense,” Ryan said. “He’s got much more confidence in himself and his receivers.”
Braylon Edwards caught his second touchdown in as many weeks with a go-ahead, 67-yard grab in the third quarter of a 31-23 victory at Miami last Sunday. Edwards was suspended for the first quarter after he was arrested for drunken driving in Manhattan during the week.
In a season full of distractions initially stemming from the Jets’ appearance in HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ the club was able to overcome another one created by Edwards.
“It’s a job for us,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “When we step out on the field, we don’t even think about anything else. That includes during practice.”
Sanchez has also gotten comfortable with tight end Dustin Keller, who has team highs of 13 receptions, 213 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks.
Buffalo ranks last in the NFL in offense with 242.0 yards per game and has dropped 12 of its last 14 AFC East games.
A bright spot for the Bills last week was the emergence of C.J. Spiller. The rookie running back scored his first touchdowns on a 5-yard pass from Fitzpatrick and a 95-yard kickoff return, although he’s still seeing limited snaps.
This is the Jets’ final AFC East game until December, and Ryan wants them to take advantage with the Dolphins and Patriots playing Monday night.
“Like I say, this game, we know it’s a game and a half in my math,” he said. “Another divisional game, three in a row. We’ll be in first place if we can get a victory. If we don’t win, we know we won’t be in first place. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”
Ryan has been reunited with former Baltimore defensive end Trevor Pryce, who signed with the Jets on Thursday after being waived by the Ravens the day before. The 14-year veteran, a four-time Pro Bowl selection with Denver, played under Ryan in Baltimore for three of his four-plus seasons there.
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