In the past 65 years of the NFL, all of 17 games have finished with an exact scoreline of 22–17. The Bills and Jets played two of those games last season.
Buffalo used the same formula—two touchdowns, one missed extra point, three field goals—to sweep the 2015 season series, winning first on the road on a November Thursday night and then bouncing its division rival from playoff contention in Week 17. Suffice to say, the Jets are seeking revenge for those crushing setbacks.
To achieve it, they’ll need more out of their quarterback. Fitzpatrick has been unable to solve Bills coach Rex Ryan throughout his career, posting a 1–8 record as a starter up against Ryan’s teams. Fitzpatrick’s three fourth-quarter interceptions doomed the Jets in Week 17, and he isn’t exactly coming into this latest meeting hot, either. He completed just 54% of his passes (19 for 35) in a loss to Cincinnati last week, as the Jets failed to find the end zone on three of their five red-zone trips.
The silver lining on offense: Running back Matt Forte had every bit the impact the Jets were hoping he would when they signed him this off-season. The ex-Bear carried the ball 22 times for 96 yards and also caught five passes for 59 yards in his debut.
New York’s defensive line also manhandled Cincinnati’s front, limiting Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard to a combined 56 yards rushing and producing seven sacks of Andy Dalton. This week, Sheldon Richardson returns from a one-game suspension to add even more pop. The Bills, meanwhile, will be down starting OT Cordy Glenn, who is out with an ankle injury.
A matchup that doesn’t project as favorably for the Jets: Darrelle Revis vs. Sammy Watkins. Revis was overmatched in a Week 1 showdown with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, who finished with 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. And when Revis last saw Watkins in Week 17, the Buffalo receiver went off for 136 yards on 11 catches, the majority of which came head-to-head against Revis. Watkins is expected to play Thursday, amid rumors that his nagging foot injury could shut him down for weeks.
The Bills’ offense was a no-show last week, even with Watkins and LeSean McCoy in the lineup. Buffalo produced just 160 total yards in a 13–7 loss to Baltimore.
Key player: Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets. In Week 17 last season, Fitzpatrick threw for 181 yards against Buffalo, with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker accounting for 176. That pairing is among the league’s best, but New York has to be able to spread the ball around Thursday night. As the Jets’s starting slot receiver, Enunwa caught seven passes for 54 yards and a TD last Sunday.
Bold prediction: Taylor runs for at least 50 yards ... again. He topped the 50-yard mark when these teams last met, carrying 10 times for 51 yards. He was entirely ineffective with his legs in Buffalo’s Week 1 loss: five attempts, 11 yards. Given how overwhelming the Jets’ D-line can be, the Bills may have to lean on deception in the run game and let their QB test the edges.
If Watkins is at all limited, the Bills are going to have a hard time moving the football. This Jets defensive front took over in stretches in Week 1 and can do so again Thursday. Ryan has a bit of a mental edge on Fitzpatrick, but his defense does not have the horses to dominate a game the way his former team’s D could. New York avoids an 0–2 start; Buffalo lands in that hole.