Once and for all, they can exorcise those “Same Old Jets” demons.
The Jets can kick old habits goodbye in 2016 by kicking their former coach’s butt.
The past (Rex Ryan) stands in the way of what the Jets hope will be their future (a sixth straight victory and a spot in the playoffs). But it’s up to them to prove they can seize the moment.
Sunday’s game in Buffalo has more drama and intrigue than the NFL schedulers could have imagined. Ryan’s Bills (7-8) will take on his former club, 10-5 under first-year coach Todd Bowles. Jets starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey will return to Buffalo for the first time since the 2012 season. With a win, the Jets will clinch a playoff berth for the first time in five years.
There’s so much at stake and far more to lose for the Jets. And that’s why they expect Ryan to do everything in his power to pull off an upset.
In the wake of failed expectations and much team drama in Buffalo, Ryan presented a more subdued and humble side as he prepared for Sunday’s game. Asked on a conference call this past week if playing the Jets is just another game, he replied: “Absolutely.”
But no one in his old locker room believes him.
“Oh, yeah, we know what he’s doing over there, man,” Jets defensive lineman Leger Douzable said, smiling. “Rex is a great motivator.”
Although some Bills have voiced their unhappiness with Ryan, including disgruntled defensive star Mario Williams, Buffalo is a gritty team that is determined not to have a losing record. And the Bills have enough talent to pose a threat to the Jets’ playoff chances, even without dynamic running back LeSean McCoy (knee). Plus, they have Ryan on their sideline.
“He’s a guy that makes you want to run through a brick wall for him,” Douzable said. “He just gets you pumped up every day, he comes in with a smile and you can tell he loves doing his job, so you want to play for a guy like that.”
The Bills won the teams’ previous meeting, 22-17, on Nov. 12 at MetLife Stadium. Gailey said reviewing the videotape was “sickening” and made him “upset to my stomach” because “as bad as we were, we still had a chance to win the ballgame at the end and didn’t pull it off.”
Ryan, however, relished every moment of it. “[It’s] pretty satisfying,” he said postgame. “ . . . Now I can say the truth. It’s kind of like being dumped by some girl that you had the hots for. That’s really what it feels like. Hey, you move on. Every now and then, they call you back. They can’t get you back.”
Turns out, Sunday’s game is even bigger to at least some of his players. “We’re not going to the playoffs, so the Super Bowl is next week for us,” running back Boobie Dixon said after the Bills’ Week 16 win over Dallas.
But the Jets aren’t concerned with storylines. Nor do they care that a playoff berth will come at the expense of Ryan.
“We have to focus on the task at hand, and that’s taking care of Buffalo,” defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said.
Added Bowles: “It’s not about playing against Rex or Buffalo or anybody else, it’s about us taking care of us.”
Sunday is just the next step in a far bigger plan. For five straight weeks, the Jets have found ways to win in crunch time. If they can add one more victory, they’ll be in the playoffs just one year after finishing 4-12 under Ryan.
Said Gailey: “We’ve been doing this game for the last five weeks in a row, so it’s the next one.”