Tonight’s installment of Thursday night football is intriguing for various reasons as the Bills stay in division to go and take on the Jets. Not only does this game serve as Rex Ryan’s first game back in a place where he coached for six years, but it also could be very important in terms of wildcard implications in the AFC.
The Bills last Sunday beat the Dolphins in large part to accumulating a whopping 266 yards rushing. However, it is unlikely they come close to reaching those levels against a stout Jets run defense. When he has been healthy, Tyrod Taylor has been more than serviceable for the Bills and has a dual threat dynamic that Todd Bowles and his staff have yet to see this season. Between the Jets banged up secondary and his scrambling ability, the play of Taylor is what could open up running lanes for LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams.
McCoy is dealing with a shoulder injury on a short week, so it will be interesting to see what kind of workload he sees. Chances are he will continue seeing around 20 total touches as he also gets involved in the passing game. When given the chances, Williams has shown true big play capability in the first 50 carries of his career averaging a whopping 6.6 yards an attempt. Unfortunately he has yet to receive more than 12 touches in a game when McCoy was active (and that was due to McCoy getting hurt in the first half). He is a high risk- high reward option for fantasy leagues.
If Taylor is to pass, it is uncertain where his attempts will be going tonight. Sammy Watkins is clearly the Bills number one option, but he’ll be getting the Darrelle Revis treatment. Despite that I’d still figure a handful of balls are thrown his way. Charles Clay is a nice weapon at tight end and has performed when the opportunities are there, but the real beneficiary in this one could be Robert Woods. For the season, Woods is on pace for less than 600 yards but Antonio Cromartie has been getting torched regularly and is currently banged up. Regardless, the Jets have been allowing big numbers to opponents secondary receivers and Woods fits that criteria for this game. He could be a sneaky fantasy play this week given the matchup.
The Jets have been of the league’s more surprising offenses this year, but that’s mainly due to the play they’ve gotten at quarterback. Historically a streaky passer, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been effective up to this point and it will be interesting to see how long the “Fitzmagic” can last. Despite the solid play at the position, a lot of the Jets offensive success will come from attacking the Bills leaky run defense.
Nobody would of thought the Bills would struggle in that area defensively, but Kyle Williams being out with a PCL injury has really disrupted what they can do. This just means that a streak is bound to end tonight as while the Bills have struggled stopping the run, Chris Ivory has had trouble getting started at all. After getting off to a read hot start, Ivory in his last three games has averaged 1.5 yards per carry on 55 attempts. Getting Nick Mangold back at center should help things, so I like Ivory’s chances of getting it going on what should be 20 to 25 touches.
While the Bills have talented corners on the outside in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby on the outside, it might not matter against the Jets tonight. That is because Eric Decker figures to do a good amount of his work in the slot where he goes against Nickell Robey which would be a significant physical advantage for Decker. Fitzpatrick has targeted him early and often in recent weeks, so Decker makes for a very safe play in fantasy formats. Despite a more difficult matchup, Brandon Marshall should also see the normal eight to 12 balls thrown his way. Regardless of who is covering him over the years, Marshall has shown that he’ll be productive as long as you throw it his way.
This came could clearly go either way as both teams have potential to put up points, but also defenses where a slugfest wouldn’t be surprising. Regardless, I am going to go with Jets in this one. A this time they have a more balanced offensive attack and questions linger regarding if the Bills have the complementary weapons in the passing game to take advantage of a banged up secondary. My prediction is Bills 20 Jets (-2.5) 23.