There are a host of challenges for the Bills when they have a Thursday night game following a Sunday game as is the case this week. It began with the coaches, who just hours after Buffalo registered a 16-point win over Miami, were back at work putting together the game plan for their matchup with the Jets in just four days.
"Obviously a very short night when you're playing on Thursday," said head coach Rex Ryan. "You do some lead up stuff, but you really get into the game planning after the Sunday game. (It's a) short day and the challenging part now is your practice is basically walk through more than anything else. I don't know how much we're going to get out of it, but we've got to get all the mental part now and there is where we're at."
With only three days between games the players need to rest their bodies and try to recuperate as best they can physically, meaning all their preparation in mastering the game plan has to be with their head since they won't be repping plays at anything close to game speed during the week.
"You really have to be into it mentally," said Jerome Felton. "You have to be on point with all your steps and all your footwork and things like that. Your technique has to be really good because they've obviously got some really good players over there. I've gone against (Jets head coach) Todd Bowles when he was in Arizona and he had some great schemes also. So we're going to have to be precise with our footwork, techniques and really have a good week mentally in practice."
That message has been effectively received by the rookies who play significant roles on offense like guard John Miller and running back Karlos Williams, who aren't accustomed to playing two games in five days.
"The thing that the vets told me, like Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, mentally you have to make sure to put in the time to study and know what you have to do, know your responsibilities," Miller told Buffalobills.com. "For the physical part you just want to get off your feet, cold tub, hot tub, whatever you've got to do, massages everything like that to make your legs feel better."
"It's all rest. It's all rest," said Williams. "Nothing has to change, just make sure you get your rest at night, make sure you're sleeping and make sure you're eating properly so your body keeps the same energy that it would on a six day week when you play on Sunday."
Relying so heavily on mental reps most NFL coordinators on a short turnaround choose to strip down the game plan. They'd rather have more effective execution with a less complicated scheme, and it sounds like Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman is no different.
"The game plan is going to be simple and the game plan is going to be solid," said Karlos Williams. "That's from coach Roman who is a great offensive coordinator. You know the game plan is going to be perfect the way it always is. It's a matter of taking the time and putting in the time and work like we do every single day."
Knowing the physical demands that two games in five days can put on a player's body, the coaching staff tried to mitigate the wear and tear with some players like Marcell Dareus, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, who played fewer snaps than usual.
"You know what's in front of you, but we were just trying to keep guys fresh," said Ryan of some of their player substitutions Sunday. "We had packages built for a lot of guys, safeties, different guys in rotation with safeties and tried to use our roster, but also recognizing the fact that we do have another game in five days."
Perhaps the biggest physical challenge exists for Leodis McKelvin. After not playing for almost a full calendar year, the veteran defensive back was thrust into the lineup at a new position. McKelvin fared well at safety, but on the heels of his first game action is another game that figures to be as physical as any this season, and to think he's in game shape after one appearance is foolhardy.
"It wasn't bad the first game just getting to the ball and running to the ball," said McKelvin. "Pretty much the wind thing (conditioning) wasn't a big issue. You've got to make sure you stay off your feet and stay hydrated and make sure you get in the cold tub."
Knowing they have half the time to get their normal workload accomplished, the players intend to multi-task with the time they have to get everything done.
"We know it's going to be a quick turnaround this week so just really catching up on sleep, staying in the playbook while I'm in the ice tub. Just really trying to find ways to rejuvenate my body and get it ready for Thursday," said Jerry Hughes. "We understand the magnitude of the game. We understand what's at stake. Making sure we really understand the game plan fully is job one. Making sure guys are able to come out there and communicate because we know on Thursday night is going to be a very hostile environment."