BGA Preview: Jets at Bills

Bent , TheJetsBlog.com

I’ve been charting games for some of the Jets’ upcoming opponents, enabling me to break down what to watch out for on gameday. This will, of course, be the final in-depth breakdown of the Jets’ opponent this season. Your feedback indicated that you’d like this to remain a regular feature next year.

This week’s preview doesn’t really need to be as comprehensive as those we’ve prepared in recent weeks, for several reasons. First of all, Jets fans are more than familiar with the Bills, because they face each other twice a year and we got a good look at the team in Week One. Perhaps more importantly, the game has been rendered pretty meaningless, so we might end up seeing plenty of reserves and unmotivated veterans. Nevertheless, Week One was a long time ago and the Bills have made (or been forced into) many changes since that game, so I’ll run down what to expect from them later today.

After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) to try and highlight what the Jets need to look out for.

Quarterbacks

It’s been a miserable season for Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose huge contract extension last year is looking like as big of a mistake as Mark Sanchez’s earlier this year was. Fitzpatrick has a better completion percentage, TD/INT ratio and QB rating than Sanchez, but somewhat remarkably has a lower PFF grade. He actually only has one game where his PFF rating was over +1.0 whereas Sanchez had four. In defense of Fitzpatrick, he’s been hurt by 36 dropped passes, six more than Sanchez.

Offensive Line

The Bills have always been a team that blocks well as a unit and benefits from the fact that Fitzpatrick is elusive in the pocket and throws a lot of quick passes. When they lost Demetress Bell in the offseason and replaced him with rookie Cordy Glenn, the line didn’t really miss a beat. Bell went on to really struggle in Philadelphia, lending weight to my long-time theory that the Bills don’t have a lot of individual talent on the line, but are able to grade out well as a unit due to their system. Glenn has given up more sacks, hits and penalties than anyone else, but all five current starters grade out positively. Andy LeVitre ranks as one of the NFL’s best pass blocking guards, but he and center Eric Wood are both dealing with injuries and listed as probable. Right Tackle Sam Young moved into the starting lineup for the first time three games ago and has fared well, but could be a weak link. Kraig Urbik rounds out the starting lineup at guard.

Running Backs

In recent weeks, the Bills have ramped up CJ Spiller’s workload, with very good results. He currently looks like an elite back, just like he did in the first game of the year against the Jets. One place the Jets should have the edge is against the interior linemen in the running game, but they need to stop Spiller getting outside or doing damage when he does get to the second level.

Both Spiller and FB Dorin Dickerson – who doubled his snap count for the year in last week’s game by playing 51 snaps – are listed as probable. Tashard Choice will back Spiller up.

Receivers

Stevie Johnson has a reputation as a Jet-Killer, but actually has an 0-7 record against them over the course of his career. With no Darrelle Revis to do battle with, he’ll presumably face up to Antonio Cromartie needing 65 yards to get to 1,000 on the season.

As for the others, third round rookie TJ Graham has 30 catches…but seven drops, Ruvell Martin hasn’t played much this year but his height is a big weapon – especially with Cromartie occupied – and Marcus Easley has only played four snaps all season.

Old friend Brad Smith could see a lot of action too, but still isn’t much of a receiving threat with just 12 catches on the year. He’s only taken 20 snaps as a quarterback this year and has rushed for less than 100 yards, albeit at 8.0 yards per carry.

At tight end, Lee Smith should get the start as Scott Chandler just went onto injured reserve. This is the highlight of Smith’s season:

Defensive Line

The defensive line is, as expected, a strength for the Bills. Mario Williams has quietly had a monster season after getting shut down by Austin Howard in week one. He’s still a major threat, especially if the officials listen to his protests about Howard’s physical play this time. Williams plays almost exclusively on the left, so Howard will draw that assignment.

Their tackles are formidable. Marcel Dareus has had a great second half of the season, but the Jets have handled him well in his three previous games against them. Kyle Williams seems to be grinding to a halt in recent weeks. I wonder if there could be a repeat of the last game of the 2010 season where the Bills’ defensive line essentially mailed it in.

The other defensive end in recent weeks has been former USC product Kyle Moore, who started the season pretty well, but has gone downhill in recent weeks. Mark Anderson, who has given D’Brickashaw Ferguson problems over the years (dating back to the 2006 Senior Bowl), has had an injury plagued season with just one sack and is out.

Shawne Merriman, Alex Carrington and Spencer Johnson give the Bills a veteran presence off the bench. Of the three, Carrington is having the better season.

Linebackers

Nick Barnett anchors this unit, although he is dealing with a knee issue. Kelvin Sheppard, Nigel Bradham and converted safety Bryan Scott share the rest of the reps.

This is a pretty unremarkable unit, as the Bills play 4-3 and don’t blitz their linebackers too often.

Defensive Backs

The secondary is anchored by two solid safeties – Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. However, their young cornerbacks have been going through some growing pains. Aaron Williams – in his second season – has been beaten for five touchdowns and given up a 126.5 QB rating when thrown at. Rookie Stephon Gilmore has played more snaps than any other Bills defender, but leads the NFL with 12 penalties.

Justin Rogers, another youngster, will get reps in the slot, although he’s been dealing with a foot issue. He’s another potential weak link.

Special Teams

Brad Smith hasn’t been returning kicks all year but with the recent injury to Leodis McKelvin will be in that role today. We obviously know what a threat he can be and he did score a touchdown earlier this year. Ryan Lindell hasn’t missed a field goal all year, but has the worst kickoffs in the league by a mile. Punter Shawn Powell is below average. Bradham has nine tackles in eight games in coverage and Carrington has blocked four kicks.

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I’ll be back on Monday to recap the game!

Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.