Thursday, December 3, 2009
Anticipating Jets-Bills in Toronto
By Tim Graham
TORONTO -- A few thoughts on what to look for Thursday night, when the New York Jets play the Buffalo Bills in the Rogers Centre.
A loss will torpedo the Jets' playoff hopes. These next four days will be heavy for the AFC East. The Jets need to leave Canada with a victory to maintain legitimate postseason prospects. They would be .500 with four games to play. And they would be a game out of first place if the Miami Dolphins defeat the New England Patriots at home Sunday.
The marquee matchup will be Jets' lockdown cornerback Darrelle Revis versus scalding-hot Bills receiver Terrell Owens. Revis has been a human fire blanket, smothering receivers on a weekly basis. When they squared off in Week 6, Revis held Owens to a catch for 11 yards. But Owens comes into the rematch with 14 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games. The scores have gone for 98 yards and 51 yards.
Can the Bills continue their resurgence under interim coach Perry Fewell? The Bills have looked like a different club since they whacked head coach Dick Jauron and promoted their defensive coordinator to run the show. It's not just Owens. All units seem to be playing with more energy. That's a reflection of Fewell's sideline demeanor, a stark contrast to Jauron's impassivity.
The unorthodox ways of helping Mark Sanchez cope with the NFL are making his rookie season even more fascinating. Last week, Jets coach Rex Ryan applied a trick he uses to deal with his dyslexia by color-coding Sanchez's plays. Two days ago, the Jets brought in New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to teach Sanchez how to slide and protect himself from unnecessary hits. These tactics might make the NFL a little more manageable for Sanchez, who threw five interceptions the first time he played the Bills. When he's in control and doesn't overextend himself, the Jets win.
Will Toronto express more than the tepid interest they showed with last year's Bills game? In the hours leading up to the game, it sure didn't feel like Canada's largest city cared all that much. No electricity. No tailgating. No anticipation. Scalpers were asking not if fans were selling tickets, but if they wanted to give them away. Last year's atmosphere when the Dolphins played the Bills on a Sunday afternoon was sterile at best. The NFL moved the game to prime time in hopes of boosting interest. Based on the pregame scene outside the Rogers Centre, that didn't seem to work.