By Jason Keidel
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Many a man has lost his mortgage trying to outwit Las Vegas. Thus, there’s a reason the Jets aren’t favored to win in Buffalo — largely a cold, white wasteland since Jim Kelly and Marv Levy melted into the history books.
The Bills, despite their dubious record, have shown ample moxie this season. Even with a rookie quarterback, they lost to the Panthers by one, the Patriots by two, the Bengals by three (in overtime), and were leading the 9-0 Chiefs before throwing a nauseating pick-six at the Chiefs’ goal line.
But for Rex Ryan to keep proving he has more lives than Michael Myers, he and his Jets need to beat the Bills this weekend. If the Jets are to assert themselves in the parity-drenched AFC, this game will make a resounding declaration. But it will mean the Jets must also win consecutive games for the first time in 2013.
Something needs to change for the Jets to change their seesaw ways. For the symbolism, if nothing else, they need to leap two games above .500, so that they aren’t always one loss from mediocrity.
Defense has carried the Jets so far, and it’s time for an unlikely boost. Perhaps the exact tonic Gang Green needs comes in the form of Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow, Jr, both of whom are expected to play.
Geno Smith has filled the neutral, game manager role rather well for a rookie. But Smith still has thrown just 8 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. It’s hard to imagine making the postseason with Smith keeping his 30.4 total QBR (32nd in the NFL). Enter Holmes, a Super Bowl MVP, and Winslow, a safety valve for Smith before the tight end got hurt and busted for PEDs.
True to Ryan’s traditional ethos, the Jets are ranked 8th in defense and 17th in offense, with the latter rather misleading, as only the Jaguars and Raiders have scored fewer points than the Jets (169) in the AFC.
No one expects the Jets to change their identity, but two touchdowns and a cloud of dust probably won’t get the job done on Sunday. The Bills will be home, hungry, and ornery. This isn’t a trap game; this is a statement game.
The Jets are tantalizingly close to long-term relevance. They beat the mighty Saints before the bye week, and now is the time to build on their momentum, mojo, and playoff lead. Losing this week will be just as deflating as the New Orleans victory was inflating.
While it’s true, to some extent, that the Jets are playing with house money, the masses have become greedy. After watching the woeful Titans, moody chargers, and poisoned Dolphins lose, the Jets can fasten their grip on the final wild card spot. And despite Muhammad Wilkerson’s assertions, the Jets are indeed playing for that.
Denver and Kansas City have already bagged the first spot, so the masses are scrambling for what the Jets have miraculously attained to this point. If not for Andy Reid and his Chiefs, Rex Ryan and his Jets would be the comeback story of the season.
Ryan prides himself on robust defense, the nuance of confusion, and for getting every ounce out of his troops. Beating the Saints will be marginalized if they lose to the marginal Bills. Ryan knows that. In fact, he’s remade himself before our eager eyes, morphing from the big blowhard to the understated, sweater-vested philosopher who speaks in coaching bromides.
Ironically, the New York Jets will be playing the only team that really plays in New York. Should they win this weekend, the Jets will own two states, while sharpening their state of mind.
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