By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Don't blame Bills players and fans for thinking the Bills would prove they're ready for the next step in an encouraging and still promising season; Vegas odds makers made the Bills slight favorites over the NY Jets, based on the Jets 0-4 road record and the Bills 4-0 (counting Toronto) home record.
It's amazing how accurate the odds makers are, and they rake in the cash when they hit the spread right on the mark¸ which is how they maintain such a lucrative business. Well, they blew this one big time. If there was anything Bills coach Chan Gailey was concerned about coming into this game, partly based on the Jets pair of blow out wins over the Bills last season, it was whether or not his team could - or would - match the Jets physicality.
They didn't. In fact, the Jets pushed the Bills around at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and don't let the fact the Jets didn't sack Ryan Fitzpatrick fool you. They managed to make Fitzpatrick look like the big new contract was a waste of money, blanketing his receivers with man coverage much of the day and causing Fitzpatrick to admit after the game it was by far his most frustrating game of the season.
So what are we to make of this 27-11 Jets win in a game that was billed as the biggest Bills game in a decade?
The big picture still looks pretty good, all things considered. We're now at the halfway point of the season, and at 5-3, the Bills are in a 3-way tie for the top spot in the AFC East with the Jets and Patriots, who lost at home to the NY Giants. Interesting isn't it, that a Giants team the Bills should have beaten on its home field managed to knock off the mighty Pats and Tom Brady in Foxboro.
As discouraging as the loss to the Jets was, and is for the Bills, it should not come as that big a surprise and it should not deter them from thinking they're still very much alive in the division and playoff hunt. The Jets, disappointed in a 4-3 start, are a confident and talented team that has just missed playing in the Super Bowl the past couple seasons. They used the bye week to full advantage, as give Rex Ryan credit, as distasteful as that is, for having his team prepared and focused on the Bills.
Defensively, the Jets did a masterful job at taking away all the things Chan Gailey likes to do offensively, and Gailey shouldered the blame for that in his post game comments. He didn't shy away from being critical of Fitzpatrick's performance - 15-31 for 191 yards, a touchdown (when the game was already decided) and two interceptions that came before the game had been decided.
Fred Jackson had a productive 82 yards on 18 carries and another 38 on 3 receptions, but Gailey said it was his fault the Bills didn't run Jackson even more, as they panicked a bit and began throwing the ball more than they wanted to. Funny, I don't remember Dick Jauron ever saying something like that, but we digress.
We can discuss a predictable fourth and inches call; handing the ball to Jackson when a simple Fitz sneak probably would have worked, or the loss of a George Wilson interception that showed Wilson had a hand between the turf and the ball on the replay, but none of that would have changed the outcome. The Jets, in a game that mattered a lot to both teams, were clearly superior in all three phases of the game and deserved to win.
Know what? As crazy as the NFL is, and because I still think this Bills team can bounce back from this disappointment¸ and that certainly includes Fitzpatrick, I wouldn't bet a nickel against the Bills in their rematch later this month in New York.
The odds makers will no doubt make the Jets favorites by then, and it says here they will be wrong on the Bills and Jets BOTH t