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Bills vs Jets: A long-standing rivalry, with a twist

Photo via the Buffalo Bills

blog by Dan Ludwig  • 

There are some football fans (like our own Ben T.) who maintain that Sunday’s gridiron battles are better enjoyed from the comfort of your own couch…in your pajamas.  Standing in contrast to fans like Ben are those supporters who understand the potential for a can’t-miss Sunday at the Ralph.  For instance, everyone who attended the October 2008 tilt against the San Diego Chargers remembers how power outages prevented the game from being broadcast—only the sellout crowd in Orchard Park could see the Bills play.  Older Bills fans might remember the start of the 1980 season, when rabid Bills backers rushed the field after Buffalo beat the Miami for the first time in a decade. 

Nostalgic moments aside, the point is that any given Sunday at the Ralph has the possibility to be epic—and the Week 9 match-up that brings the New York Jets to town (1 p.m., CBS) is no different .  As Bills CEO Russ Brandon tweeted last week, the Bills will wear their white jerseys this Sunday at the Ralph for the first time in 25 years—this rarity, combined with a player-promoted White Out The Ralph campaign, could make for a raucous Sunday party, even by Buffalo’s standards.

On top of the all-white player unis, the Bills will distribute white pom poms to the first 50,000 fans who enter the gates.  Although the Bills can’t provide white tees for every ticket holder, social media sites have been blowing up in support of the white out.  A quick glance at the Twitter feed of Fiamma Steak (1735 Hertel Ave.) proves that the White Out The Ralph campaign is in full force.

Of course, the party atmosphere in Orchard Park might be dampened (if not completely extinguished) if the Bills don’t continue to defend their house.  The team is undefeated at home (3-0 inside the Ralph, 1-0 in the Rogers Centre and 5-2 overall).  Buffalo’s dominance at home does not bode well for the Jets who, with a 4-3 record, have yet to register a win on the road. 

The numbers don’t completely favor Buffalo, however.  Gang Green has taken the last six contests between the two sides, including three games on the road.  Also, as the Jets’ own Darrelle Revis admits, this game comes at a crucial point in the season for the New York.  A win will keep the Jets viable in the division, while a loss would put a large gap between the haves (potentially the Bills and Patriots) and the have-nots (potentially the Jets, and most definitely the Dolphins) of the AFC East.

Sunday’s tilt will boil down to a couple of key on-field battles:

Marcell Dareus vs. Nick Mangold: Last week, Dareus had the type of breakout performance that Buffalo fans have been waiting for from the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.  His 2.5 sacks show that moving him to nose tackle was indeed the right move, although it was necessitated by Kyle Williams’ foot injury. 

With Williams out this week again, Buffalo’s defense will need another strong performance from Dareus.  However, the Alabama product will not have the luxury of lining up across from Eric Cook, the second-year center for the Washington Redskins who was clearly no match for #99.  Instead, Dareus will face Nick Mangold, an all-pro center who ranks among the best at his position.  If Dareus can handle his responsibilities against Mangold, the Jets running game on which they rely so heavily will take a serious hit. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick / Stevie Johnson vs. Darrelle Revis: Everyone knew Revis was good, but this season he is redefining the position of cornerback.  Through seven games, Revis has allowed 10 receptions and has forced opposing quarterbacks into an abysmal 2.9 rating when throwing his way (I’ll let that sink in…).  This is nothing new for the Bills, who are familiar with Revis’ shut-down ability.  However, if Revis completely erases Johnson as a passing option for Fitzgerald, that will allow Jet defenders to focus on the other Bills weapons.  If the whole offensive unit wants to see success, Stevie and Fitzy must figure out a way to keep the Jets thinking about a deep ball thrown Johnson’s way.

Prediction:

We’ll see if Bills players can turn the momentum created by the White Out campaign into on-field success for Sunday.  If the Bills jump out to an early lead, it will make the Jets run a one-dimensional offense - and the Jets are not a team that is made to play from behind.  With this in mind, I think the Buffalo will score some early points and hold on late, winning 28-24.  Whatever the outcome, the Buffalo.com staff (minus S.J.) can’t wait.


(Photo via the Buffalo Bills)

TAGGED: afc east, buffalo bills, new york jets, nfl, nfl predictions

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