Get your popcorn ready. Rex Ryan is making his return to New York, as he’ll lead the Buffalo Bills (4-4) against the Jets (5-3) on Thursday Night Football.
Ryan, in true Ryan fashion, hasn’t shied away from any of the pomp and circumstance this week. In fact, he’s welcomed – or better yet, instigated – more of it than usual.
Ryan was beloved in New York for several seasons, but now? Now the Jets probably just want to shut him up.
“I think that they want to show that they’re a pretty good team since he left – and their record indicates that,” Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They’ve gotten better. Now, of course they’ve made some changes and having Darrelle Revis back really makes that Jets defense go – and Rex Ryan knew that when he lost Revis a couple of years ago. That was a big reason why he didn’t last (and it led to) the falling out that he had with the Jets front office and John Idzik, the Jets general manager, who’s also gone. So yeah, it’s a shame this is a Thursday night game in some regards. Yes, it’s great that it’s prime time and we’re usually getting some dog matchup on Thursday night. This has some sexiness to it. But with everything that’s been said between Rex Ryan and Ryan Fitzpatrick going back and forth and having fun with each other, (it’s been entertaining). Rex Ryan (said) that Ryan Fitzpatrick is ugly because that beard is hideous, and then Ryan Fitzpatrick shoots back and says, ‘I have five kids, so something must be working.’ Calvin Pryor (popped off about) Rex Ryan not using the defensive players properly as a major reason why they didn’t win last year. Calvin Pryor is not going to play (due to an ankle injury). He’s already been ruled out, but there’s been some classic back and forth with the players.”
Ryan has named IK Enemkpali captain for Thursday’s game. Of course he did.
“IK Enemkpali might be the Jets’ MVP this year,” Graham said. “Because Geno Smith – there were a lot of questions with him. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played very well and has been so significant to their success this year that they’ve had. But it’s a shame that this isn’t a Sunday game with some sort of Super Bowl build up where we get it all through the week. The hype is going to come to a head (Thursday) instead of Sunday, and it’s almost like it’s cheating us of two or three more days of trash talk and back and forth. There are some fantastic storylines in this game.”
Ultimately, though, Graham believes the Jets have what it takes to win, especially at home.
“I think the Jets are the better team because they’ve been healthier,” Graham said. “I know that sounds strange. The Jets’ injury list is longer than my arm. But I think the Jets, based on their record and the way that their defense has just been excellent since the beginning of the year – it’s been a remarkable defense under new head coach Todd Bowles.”
Ryan, meanwhile, inherited a top-five defense, but that unit now ranks 16th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense. In other words, middle of the pack.
“That defense has regressed under Rex Ryan whereas the Jets defense has surged without him,” Graham said. “I know Darrelle Revis is a big part of that, but I think that’s my favorite matchup going into (Thursday): Revis against Sammy Watkins, who’s going off that monster game in which he accounted for 93 percent of the Bills’ passing offense.”
That is the highest percentage for any pass-catcher since Qadry Ismail in 1999. Watkins finished with eight catches for 168 yards and a touchdown in a 33-17 win over the Dolphins.
“When he’s healthy, he’s lethal,” Graham said. “And Darrelle Revis is one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time.”