1. SHORT WEEK—FOR BOTH TEAMS
It's a strain on the coaches, preparing a game plan in a shortened week. But it's mostly a strain on the players, who have a compressed work week and little time to recover from the previous game. But Thursday night football is here to stay. The full, every week Thursday night schedule is in its' fourth season. And the evidence indicates that the home team has a slight advantage on Thursday night.
In the three and a half years of regular Thursday night football, the road teams have won 23 and lost 28 so far. That's a winning percentage of 45-percent, slightly higher than the winning percentage of road teams overall in the NFL over the last 25-years or so (43-percent).
Bills Coach Rex Ryan says the short week works equally against both the road team and the home team.
"It's fair because both teams are going through the same thing," Ryan believes. "I think if somebody had extended time or whatever that would probably be to their advantage. But obviously the way it's set up the fact you're playing a divisional opponent, primarily that's what happens on Thursday night, you play divisional games that you're familiar with."
- WILL THE BILLS FIND A HOME ON THE ROAD?**
The Bills broke even on the road last year (4 wins, 4 losses) and so far this year they've more than held their own away from home (2-1). But here comes a gauntlet of five road games over the next six weeks. Thursday's game at the Meadowlands is the first of three straight on the road.
It can be a hostile crowd at MetLife Stadium, especially at night. And with Rex Ryan returning to the Meadowlands, don't expect a warm welcome from the Jets fans.
3. YOU WANT CONNECTIONS? WE'VE GOT CONNECTIONS
When Ryan was hired by the Bills in January, it immediately became a big game. The Bills-Jets matchups this year will be highly publicized, hyped up games with plenty of intrigue on both sides.
It's not just Ryan, but 11 members of his Jets coaching staff came with him to Buffalo this year, including defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. Among that group-Bills LBs Coach Bobby April III, whose father, Bobby, is the Jets special teams coordinator this year (and coached Bills special teams for six years.
The Jets Offensive Coordinator is Chan Gailey, the Bills Head Coach from 2010-2012. His quarterbacks coach is Kevin Patullo, who was with Buffalo for those three seasons. New York's defensive line coach is Pepper Johnson, who had the same job with Buffalo last year.
And of course, fan favorite Ryan Fitzpatrick is in his first year as New York's quarterback. He played 55-games for the Bills from 2009-12. And the Bills have TE Matthew Mulligan and DE IK Enemkpali on their roster both former Jets.
The postgame handshakes may take longer than the game itself.
- SAMMY MAKES ANOTHER VISIT TO THE ISLAND**
Bills WR Sammy Watkins got his first taste of life on Revis Island last season, when the six time Pro Bowl performer was with the Patriots. This week, Watkins returns, coming off one of his most productive games of his career (8 catches, 168-yards, one touchdown vs. Miami). And he'll be challenged again by Revis.
Even at age 30, Revis is still playing at a high level, with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries this season. And last year, when he was with the Patriots, the Bills didn't spend much time testing Watkins against Revis. In the first matchup against Revis, Watkins was only targeted three times (2 catches).
The Watkins-Revis matchup figures to be one of the most interesting on the field Thursday night.
5. TAYLOR CLIMBING UP THE CHARTS-NUMBER 4-WITH A BULLET
You'd be hard pressed to ask much more from first year starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in his first six starts. The Bills have won four of those six. And Taylor has the fourth highest passer rating in the NFL heading into the second half of the season.
His QB rating of 108.9 is higher than established superstars like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Russell Wilson.
Bills GM Doug Whaley admits Taylor has performed better than he thought he would this early in his starting stint with the Bills.
"This early in his career, absolutely," Whaley said Thursday morning, in an appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550. "You have to give a lot of credit to Greg Roman and David Lee in how they prepared this guy. And also to Tyrod. He's a consummate professional--in here early, out of here late."
6. MORE GROUNDING AND POUNDING AHEAD?
Even with Taylor's fast start, the Bills believe their best route to offensive success is on the ground. And right after Buffalo pounded out 266 rushing yards against Miami, the Bills offensive line was looking to continue that approach in the second half of the season.
"You have to be efficient when you do that," Guard Richie Incognito said in the locker room Sunday, after the offensive line opened up holes for two-100-yard rushers. "You have to pick up chunks of yards, and you have to rip off some big runs in order to be able to stick with the run like that. You've got to give the coordinator confidence to do that. We were physical, we tossed them around and we got into a nice rhythm."
The Bills will be challenged to roll up that kind of rushing yardage against the Jets, who are the NFL'S top defense against the run.
7. BIG NAMES UP FRONT ON BOTH ROSTERS
New York's success against the run can be linked directly to the talent they've stockpiled on their defensive line. They've got four former first round draft picks up front, with Muhammad Wilkerson (1st round 2011) and Leonard Williams (1st round 2015) listed as starters and Sheldon Richardson (1st round 2013) getting lots of snaps.
The Bills counter with three former first rounders on their defensive line—Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes. The talent in this game is right up front for all to see.