Bills, Jets meet while facing offseasons of uncertainty
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) No Rex means a lot less luster - and bluster - for the latest Bills-Jets showdown.
There's still plenty of intrigue and uncertainty surrounding both teams, though, as their seasons crawl to a close without the playoffs in sight. Again.
The Bills (7-8) are missing the postseason for the 17th straight year, the NFL's longest active drought that's also tied for the fifth longest in league history. Rex Ryan - along with twin brother Rob - was the latest casualty of the franchise's playoff ineptitude, fired earlier in the week, with the coach denied a chance to finish his second season with one final game against his former team.
''It's definitely frustrating,'' linebacker Preston Brown said. ''You never want to see a coach go, especially one that we all loved here in Buffalo. You don't want to see that happen, but we know that we didn't make it work, so hopefully whoever comes here next year makes this thing work and we get it rolling.''
It could be Anthony Lynn, who'll make his head coaching debut Sunday at MetLife Stadium as the interim and is expected to be in the running for the job this offseason.
''You know, we've obviously been - (with) him being my head coach and friend - I wanted him to get more time,'' Lynn said. ''But, this is a business. As much as I like to think football is a relationship business, there's a business side of it. Ownership made that decision, and there's nothing we can do about that now but move forward.''
Jets coach Todd Bowles faces similar uncertainty with his job status far from secure.
After a 10-6 season in his first year with New York, the Jets have been dismal with a 4-11 mark and some ugly performances. They've been outscored 75-16 in their last two games, both to AFC East rivals: 34-13 vs. Miami and 41-3 at New England.
''I don't worry about my job,'' Bowles insisted. ''I just worry about coaching the team.''
Jets fans are frustrated, though, enduring a sixth straight season without a playoff appearance. That has many of them calling for Bowles to be fired and for owner Woody Johnson to clean house.
''This year's just a bad year for a number of reasons,'' wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. ''You don't have a fire sale because of that. You suck it up, you be men, you go in the offseason and work hard.''
Here are some other things to know as the Bills and Jets finish their seasons:
QB SHUFFLE: The Bills are starting EJ Manuel at quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, with Lynn calling it ''a business decision'' by the team.
Manuel will make his first start since Oct. 25, 2015, a 34-31 loss to Jacksonville at London's Wembley Stadium when he turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions - two of which were returned for touchdowns. As for Taylor, he signed a five-year extension and restructured the final season of his contract in August, but the Bills can opt out of the deal after the season.
''I'm sure it's a little different for him,'' Manuel said of Taylor. ''At least for me, it was good to get back in the saddle and get a chance to get some time with those receivers and tight ends. It was good for me. I felt real good.''
FITZ'S FUTURE: Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the start for the Jets ahead of rookie Christian Hackenberg after Bryce Petty was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Capping an awful season, Fitzpatrick is due to become a free agent and still wants to play - but knows it likely won't be in New York.
''I think there's probably an obvious reality,'' he said, ''the way the year is going to come to a close for me.''
After setting a franchise mark with 31 touchdown passes last season, Fitzpatrick re-signed with New York but was a bust in his return. The 34-year-old quarterback has been benched twice and has 10 TD throws and a whopping 17 interceptions.
FLYING AWAY?: This could mark the final game in Jets uniforms for several key players, including Fitzpatrick.
Marshall, cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson could all be salary cap casualties in an offseason that's shaping up as an extreme makeover.
Other Jets who face uncertain futures with the franchise: center Nick Mangold, left tackle Ryan Clady, right tackle Breno Giacomini and safety Calvin Pryor.
GROUND AND POUND: Buffalo has the NFL's top rushing offense, with LeSean McCoy leading the way with 1,257 yards and 13 scores.
The Bills' 28 TD runs are a franchise record, and they could become the 10th NFL team to score 30 in a season, first since the 2008 Carolina Panthers.
RUNNING IN REVERSE: Buffalo's Reggie Bush has plenty of accolades on his football resume, but the 31-year-old running back is on the verge of making some dubious history. He has 12 carries for minus-3 yards, and could become the first NFL running back to finish a season with negative yards rushing with 10 or more carries.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, New York, contributed.
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