PROGRAMMING NOTE: Monday night’s Jets-Bills game can be seen locally on CBS2 at 7 p.m.
DETROIT (CBSNewYork/AP) — Buffalo coach Doug Marrone outlined some of the obstacles his team was facing while trying to prepare for its next game, which was moved to Detroit because of all the snow in western New York.
The Bills are missing out on a home game and had to travel to Michigan just to practice, but there is one factor that might make all this a bit easier: They’re facing the New York Jets — a division rival they were already plenty familiar with.
“Yeah, I’m not going to lie,” Marrone said. “Obviously, that helps a little bit.”
The Bills are still at a disadvantage heading into Monday night’s game, having missed valuable practice time before finally arriving in the Detroit area Friday. But Buffalo and the Jets have already faced each other this year, and not too long ago at that. The Bills beat New York 43-23 on Oct. 26.
So Buffalo (5-5) has a sense of what to expect — more so than if this were a game against a team from a different conference, for example. The Bills are also familiar with Ford Field, where they beat the Detroit Lions in early October.
“It helps us that we’ve been here before,” Marrone said. “We’ve played here, we know what shoes to wear, what the surface is like, what the sidelines are like. So, that familiarity obviously helps.”
The season’s first Bills-Jets game was noteworthy because that was when Michael Vick took over at quarterback for New York. After Geno Smith threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions, Vick helped the Jets rally before his outing was undone by an interception and two lost fumbles.
Vick is now New York’s starter. Jets coach Rex Ryan says there are “a zillion ways” his team has improved since the first meeting with the Bills.
“Almost every way,” he said. “We do a better job of communicating in the back end, much better in the red zone, and it starts with communication down there. We’re a better tackling team than we showed. And then obviously, we have to take care of the football a heck of a lot better and we will.”
The earlier matchup with Buffalo was Percy Harvin’s first game for the Jets. He says he has become more comfortable with the offense since, and he already seems to have good chemistry with Vick.
“I think Percy’s getting better each and every week,” Vick said. “Each and every week, he’s learning more and more and continues to get better and better and more confident. I’m glad that guy is on my team. I really enjoy playing with him.”
The Jets (2-8) clearly caught a bit of a break when the game was moved. Instead of playing a true road game at Buffalo, they’ll take the field in Detroit in front of fans who were offered free tickets to the game. Nobody is quite sure what to expect. The Lions don’t have any real rivalry with either team, although there is some lingering animosity in Detroit — among fans at least — toward the Bills after their victory in Motown earlier this season.
Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — who was Detroit’s coach before being fired after last season — was carried off the field after that victory.
Bills president Russ Brandon said he has heard over 67,000 tickets have been distributed.
“We’re working with the Lions, and there’s going to be preferred seating between the 20s for any Bills fans that come over from Buffalo that have a ticket to the game,” Brandon said. “Those individuals have the opportunity to sit behind our bench in that area and root us on.”
The Bills are still planning to return home for next weekend’s game against Cleveland, but first, they’ll try to put aside all the logistical difficulties of the last few days and play a game against the Jets that’s crucial to Buffalo’s playoff hopes.
“With what our community’s going through, right now we look at it as a three-hour opportunity to take people’s minds off of what’s in front of them and what they’ve been through and provide them with Buffalo Bills football,” Brandon said. “We expect to represent the Buffalo region and community in the appropriate manner.”
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