ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Jets are coming to town for an AFC East showdown Thursday night, and Rex Ryan was in no mood to reflect on old grudges.
Whatever raw emotions the Bills coach felt toward his former team during his first season in Buffalo last year have dissipated with time.
“Last year, I thought it was different because I was going back to New York, it seemed like bigger,” said Ryan, who memorably punched the air in delight and yelled a profanity following Buffalo’s 22-17 win in his first return to the Meadowlands in November. “This is just a football game now, and I think that’s kind of how everybody views it.”
Aside from a few offhand remarks regarding the success of his fantasy baseball team, and a shoutout to his son, Seth, to earn more playing time at Clemson, Ryan was all business this week, and for good reason.
He has far more pressing concerns facing a short week of practice and questions about an offense that sputtered in a season-opening 13-7 loss at Baltimore, and could be missing two key starters to injury. Receiver Sammy Watkins is questionable because of soreness is his surgically repaired left foot, and starting left tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle) is out.
That’s worrisome for a Tyrod Taylor-led attack that managed just 160 yards offense on Sunday.
There’s also the added weight of pressure Ryan is bearing following a year in which the Bills played below expectations, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for a 16th consecutive year.
In seven previous seasons as a head coach, Ryan has never opened a season 0-2.
“Gosh,” he said, when reminded of that statistic, “I hope that trend continues.”
There’s a similar sense of urgency for the Jets, who gave up a go-ahead field goal in the final minute of a 23-22 loss to Cincinnati. Now the Jets make the trip to where their playoff hopes ended with a season-ending 22-17 loss to the Bills in January.
The memory stings especially for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who closed the game by throwing three consecutive interceptions.
“That was a tough one for me to get over,” said Fitzpatrick, who went 20-33 as a Bills starter from 2009-2012. “But you tend to find a way to move on, and this is a new year.”
The Jets return mostly intact on offense and improved their ground attack with the offseason addition of running back Matt Forte. New York’s defensive line is one of the NFL’s most disruptive, and was in on six of seven sacks last weekend.
Some things to look out for as the Jets seek to snap a five-game skid against Buffalo:
REVIS ISLAND EXPOSED?: Concerns were raised whether Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has lost a step after Bengals receiver A.J. Green had 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown last weekend. Coach Todd Bowles said he’s not lost any sleep over it, and Revis says he has a short memory.
“It’s not like I’ve never had a ball caught off me,” Revis said. “You bounce back and that’s why we play week to week.”
WATKINS LIMPING: Revis might have an easier time defending Watkins, who had 11 catches for 136 yards in last season’s finale.
Though Watkins says he’s “definitely” playing, he complained this week of experiencing discomfort in his left foot, which was surgically repaired in April. Watkins had a team-best 43 yards receiving against the Ravens, and spent this week trying out a new, wider set of cleats to ease the pain.
NO OFFENSE: The Bills were kept in check by the Ravens, who forced five three-and-outs and limited Taylor to 48 snaps. Taylor attempted one pass beyond 20 yards and was held to 11 yards rushing, a year after setting the franchise record for quarterbacks with 568 yards rushing.
The 160 yards offense were the fewest by the Bills in a decade, and came a year after Buffalo led the league in rushing and scored 24 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer.
SACK ATTACK: Ryan refers to the Jets’ defensive front as one of the most formidable in the NFL, and the line will welcome back Sheldon Richardson, who returns from a one-game suspension. The seven sacks against Cincinnati were the most since 2013, when the Ryan-coached team had eight against Buffalo. The Bills got four sacks a year after failing to get more than two in one game.
HONORING BRUCE: The Bills will retire NFL career sacks leader and Hall of Famer Bruce Smith’s No. 78 during a halftime ceremony.
The game also features the regular-season debut of New Era Field after the Bills signed an agreement with Buffalo-based New Era Cap Co., to replace the previous name of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
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