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It seems like a lifetime ago, but back in September the Jets went to Buffalo and won 37-31 behind a tremendous performance by Ryan Fitzpatrick. The teams seemed destined to head in opposite directions at that time and that proved to be the case, but it would be the Jets who fell into a slump, while Buffalo unexpectedly moved into postseason contention.
The Bills were ultimately eliminated last week, following an overtime loss to Miami, and the 4-11 Jets are basically going through the motions as the season nears its merciful end. With Rex Ryan having been fired Tuesday, the game offers an opportunity for interim coach Anthony Lynn to make a case for a full-time head coaching job.
After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) to try and highlight what to watch out for.
Backup EJ Manuel has been announced as Sunday's starter having not previously been needed this year. Manuel, a former first-round pick now in his fourth season, has had a disappointing career, but arguably had his best NFL performance against the Jets three years ago.
The Bills might also use this stage as an opportunity for rookie Cardale Jones to see his first action. Tyrod Taylor, who had been starting all season, has been benched following Ryan's departure and will be inactive.
The Bills are facing an interesting decision with regard to Taylor, who signed a multi-year extension in preseason. With reports indicating there is no immediate intention to renegotiate his current deal, the Bills have the option to release Taylor before March, or remain committed to him for big money over the next few years. That's part of the reason he won't play because an injury would have left the Bills on the hook for significant guarantees.
Taylor's 2016 season didn't make that dilemma any more straightforward as his numbers were similar to last year's pretty much across the board. Had he suffered a Fitzpatrick-style regression or made the leap like Derek Carr has, it would have been a lot easier to make that decision. Unfortunately, his performance falls within that dreaded middle ground and the decision to bench him this week suggests that they are leaning towards letting him go.
The Bills' line has been reasonably good this year, led by left guard Richie Incognito who is still the key to the Bills' running game. He has been their most consistent lineman this season, especially in the second half of the year.
Another leader, left tackle Cordy Glenn, has been a bit banged up. He has missed several starts including the past two weeks and has been ruled out for tomorrow. Reserve Cyrus Kouandjio has had to replace Glenn a few times and will likely start tomorrow. He actually had a great game last week against Miami.
The right side of the offensive line has been a weakness for the Bills for a while and Jordan Mills has continued to struggle at tackle. Mills has given up a team-high eight sacks and almost twice as much pressure as any other Bills lineman. John Miller has developed into a more consistent player in his second season, though.
Starting center Eric Wood was placed on injured reserve but Ryan Groy has filled in admirably while starting the last six games in his place. The losses of Wood and Glenn have meant that they don't have much experience left on their bench.
LeSean McCoy is headed back to the Pro Bowl after an excellent season that has seen him rush for over 1,200 yards already, along with 49 pass receptions and 14 total touchdowns. All of those numbers are significantly better than his 2015 production, as he has done a good job of proving he still has some gas in the tank.
Reserve Mike Gillislee has provided an excellent change of pace and breakaway threat. While McCoy is averaging a healthy 5.5 yards per carry, Gillislee is even better at 6.2 and has also contributed eight touchdowns, including one against the Jets. McCoy averaged fewer than four yards per carry in three of his first four games, including the Jets game, but has only been below that mark just twice since then.
Rookie Jonathan Williams and veteran Reggie Bush get occasional touches, but neither has done much so far this year. Bush has netted minus-three yards on 12 carries and could become the first NFL player to carry the ball more than 10 times in a season only to end up with negative yardage.
At fullback, veteran Jerome Felton's playing time has been increasing as the season endures. He's averaged over 40 snaps per game over the last two.
Sammy Watkins has missed half of the year due to injury and hasn't been close to 100 percent, even when he has been in the lineup. He's still been productive though, and leads the Bills with a 16.6 yards per catch average. However, the Bills have had a better record (4-4) when he doesn't play than they have had when he does (3-4). He's as close to full health as he's been all year right now, though, and is coming off a season-high 154-yard performance against Miami.
With Watkins out, the Bills' leading receiver had been tight end Charles Clay, who has caught 54 passes. Clay and backup Nick O'Leary have also made good contributions in the running game.
The leading wide receiver, in terms of statistical production, has been Robert Woods, but it was third receiver Marquise Goodwin who made the most noise in the first matchup, blowing by Darrelle Revis for a long touchdown.
The Bills have placed three ex-Jets receivers on injured reserve since the start of the season in Greg Salas, Walt Powell and Percy Harvin. Depth instead now comes from veterans Justin Hunter and Brandon Tate.
Like Watkins, star defensive lineman Marcell Dareus has missed half of the year, this time through a combination of injuries and suspension. Again, the Bills are 4-4 without him and 3-4 when he plays. Dareus has been productive when in the lineup though, with solid play against the run and 3.5 sacks in just seven games.
Kyle Williams has remained healthy this year and been his usual self with outstanding play against the run, while compiling five sacks of his own. It's always a tough assignment for Nick Mangold to face either of these two, so Wesley Johnson will have his work cut out. Johnson did well at guard in relief of James Carpenter in the first game, though.
The other starter is third-round rookie Adolphus Washington who has been promising but unspectacular so far.
Corbin Bryant, who had been starting for Dareus, went onto injured reserve in October, but former Jet Leger Douzable has been seeing plenty of playing time all year.
The biggest surprise for the Bills this year has been Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander was a young starter with the Cardinals in 2013 but suffered a season-ending injury early in the season and hadn't started a game since then. He's made the most of his opportunity with the Bills, as he is headed to the Pro Bowl after a season that has so far seen him generate 13 sacks.
Jerry Hughes was the Bills' best pass rusher last year, but this year he's only had a disappointing six sacks and has played poorly against the run. He's also committed 36 penalties in the past three years.
First-round rookie Shaq Lawson missed the start of the year through injury but has shown some mild promise since returning. He has two sacks so far. Fellow high draft pick Reggie Ragland has missed the entire season, though.
With no Ragland, the Bills starting linebackers have been Preston Brown and Zach Brown. The latter has had a good season with a team-leading 138 tackles and four sacks. As for Preston Brown, while he has struggled he hasn't been close to as bad as last year where he graded out as the worst linebacker in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Veterans Ramon Humber and Brandon Spikes provide depth off the bench and might be needed as both Browns are listed as questionable.
The Bills' starting cornerbacks have done a decent job this year, although they've not been as good as they were in 2015. They'll likely relish a chance to pad their stats against the turnover-prone Jets. Stephon Gilmore leads the team with five interceptions, but he's been ruled out for tomorrow due to injury. Ronald Darby - who intercepted two passes in the first three games of his rookie season - has now gone 28 straight games without one.
Corey Graham has had a strong year at free safety, but his partner has changed several times during the year because of injuries. Youngster Jonathan Meeks is currently listed as the starter but the Bills have basically been operating out of one-safety personnel packages over the last few weeks.
In sub-packages, Nickell Robey-Coleman continues to get a lot of work in the slot, but Corey White has been getting more reps in recent weeks. Late-round rookie Kevon Seymour has also been getting some playing time. They should all see increased time with Gilmore out.
Former Jet Dan Carpenter is still the Bills' kicker. He's missed six field goals this year, including five from within 50 yards. He also started a fight on Saturday. The Bills got rid of their kickoff specialist at the start of December, so Carpenter has also been kicking off over the past few weeks.
Statistically, punter Colton Schmidt has been one of the worst punters in the league this year, albeit still slightly better than Jets rookie Lac Edwards. Schmidt has booted a league-leading 18 punts out of bounds.
In the return game, Tate has been the primary return man all year. He's yet to break a 50-yarder but is still 3rd in total punt return yardage with a 12.0 yards per return average. He's also seventh in kickoff return yardage.
In coverage, Humber and Meeks have been their most productive tackles, with Alexander surprisingly not far behind despite his important role on defense.
I'll be back on Monday to recap the game.
Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.