Games like these are rare. It’s a feeling foreign to this Bills team.
No, not playing football games in a new country. Rather, the chance at a winning streak. After pounding the Miami Dolphins last weekend, Buffalo returns to their new home away from home to face the New York Jets.
Canadians will not be entertained by Grade-A football. Don't judge, guys. Neither team is in the thick of the playoff race. But clearly, Buffalo is improving. After last year’s numbing implosion, a strong finish would be refreshing for the organization in general.
And maybe, Perry Fewell climbs a few spots on Ralph Wilson’s coaching wish list. So far, he’s winning over his players.
“He’s definitely brought energy and enthusiasm,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “If you see him on the sideline tomorrow you’ll see a guy that’s getting everybody fired up and running up and down the sideline. I think the biggest thing is the energy he brings.”
Coinciding with Fewell’s arrival has been a resurgent offense. Dormant most of the season, the unit has come alive. Particularly, the passing game. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 543 yards and two touchdowns the last two games. Unlike his predecessor, Trent Edwards, Fitzpatrick has gained a rapport with Terrell Owens.
You can sense the urgency. Like Fewell, Fitzpatrick is also fighting for a job next year. With a strong finish, he’ll play himself into the quarterback derby that awaits this offseason. So far, both are seizing their opportunities.
For now, Fitzpatrick isn't fretting over the future. Like Fewell, it’s all about winning games in the present. After all, 4-7 teams have no other option.
“I have to worry about what I can control and that’s going out every week and playing well,” Fitzpatrick said. “And that’s preparing hard during the week, getting on the same page as my guys on the outside and getting them the ball.”
If Fewell is making a good impression on Fitzpatrick then Fitzpatrick is making a good impression on his wideouts. Finally, Buffalo is seeing dividends in its 1-2 punch at receiver.
“He does a good job of breaking down opponents, figuring out what he likes, what he likes to throw and involving us in the process,” receiver Lee Evans said. “It’s been a working relationship.”
Tonight could be the biggest step in Fitzpatrick’s first year with the Bills. New York boasts the NFL’s second-best passing defense — anchored by shutdown cornerback Darrell Revis. Week-in and week-out, Revis draws the opponents’ top wideout.
Randy Moss only totaled 54 yards in two games against Revis this season. He is physical, fast and has deft closing speed.
Expect Revis to match up one-on-one with Terrell Owens, which would probably make Lee Evans the go-to guy.
“If they want to try to match him up and leave me one on one then I’ll have to make some plays,” Evans said.
That’s what happened the last time these two teams met.
Owens was rendered useless and Evans delivered. His 68 yards and one touchdown was the difference in a turnover-filled game. Look for Fitzpatrick and Fewell to take well-placed shots downfield. Unlike Jauron, Fewell is not afraid to push the envelope.
After all, he’s auditioning for a long-term gig. Just like Fitzpatrick. The duo has nothing to lose. Momentum is building, sure. But Fewell knows it’s not time to be complacent.
“I think the guys in the locker room, their main focus is this divisional game,” Fewell said. “Yes, we have a little bit of momentum because of the win on Sunday against Miami and that’s always a good feeling to go in with a win and now we’re going to play a tough division foe with a really good defense. So there’s a little bit of confidence there for us and so I think our guys will be ready to play. It’ll be good for us.”
Prediction: Bills 24, Jets 23: Bills are riding high after last week. Run defense has vastly improved since getting pillaged for more than 300 yards by New York earlier this season. Look for Fred Jackson to wear down the Jets’ front and for Fitzpatrick to connect on a key deep ball late.
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