We’re not even a full week into the 2016 season and it’s neither hyperbole nor hot take to wonder if Rex Ryan will still be employed by the Buffalo Bills come Christmas. In his first season in Buffalo, the team finished a disappointing 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the 17th consecutive year. The disappointment officially extended into 2016 with the Bills’ listless performance against the Baltimore Ravens .
When it was over the Bills mustered just 160 yards of offense and seven points, though Ryan was quite generous with his praise for the Ravens.
“It’s a pretty darn good defense over there,” Ryan said after the game. “I’m probably one of the only coaches that’ll give credit to the opponent because they deserve it. That defense played extremely well. They’re well coached and they got after us.”
So, yes, kudos to Ryan for being one of the only coaches to give credit to the opponent, though fans and ownership would prefer Ryan focus on making the Bills — wait for it — great again (also acceptable: competitive). That was one of the many empty promises Ryan made when he was hired before the 2015 season. In the 18 months since, we’ve gone from talk of postseason football to Hall of Famer and Bills great Jim Kelly conceding that Ryan probably gets canned if the Bills again fall short of the playoffs.
By the way, if the Bills’ offense struggled against the Ravens, an outfit that ranked 20th last season, according to Football Outsiders, things will be immeasurably more difficult against the New York Jets , who finished fifth in 2015. New York’s D harassed Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton all afternoon in the opening-day loss, and sacked him seven times. The good news for Buffalo: Despite the constant pass rush, Cincinnati managed 381 yards of offense. The bad news: Tyrod Taylor and Buffalo’s offense showed no signs of being able to consistently sustain drives, and we’re not sure how they’ll fix that in four days.
So here we are, the 0-1 Bills and as close as you can get to a “must-win” game in mid-September. Because if they lose to the Jets on Thursday, they’ll next face the Arizona Cardinals (at home) and the New England Patriots (in New England). Four straight losses to open the season suddenly become a real possibly and along with it, talk of Ryan getting pink-slipped. If you’re looking for a silver lining, here you go: Ryan’s Bills swept Todd Bowles’ Jets last season.
The last time we met …
Both meetings were memorable last season, and for two completely different reasons. In Week 10, the Jets hosted the Bills in a Color Rush game that proved to be complete torture for colorblind viewers. Thirteen million Americans are colorblind, many of them red-green colorblind. Which meant that watching the Jets — decked out in all green — battle the Bills — decked out in all red — was exactly like watching 22 guys dressed in all gray play football.
The two teams will debut their 2016 Color Rush uniforms on Thursday, but don’t worry, colorblind friends, the Jets will be wearing white this time.
“We did test the jerseys this summer on field and on television,” the NFL said last year, after the first Jets-Bills Color Rush get-together. “The standard television test did not account for color blindness for fans at home that became apparent last night. We will enhance our testing to include a color blindness analysis to better address this issue in the future.”
New York and Buffalo met again in Week 17, and all the 10-5 Jets had to do was beat an already-out-of-the-playoff-race 8-7 Bills team. Instead, Buffalo led 13-0 early and were up 22-17 with 2 minutes to go in the game when Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did the one thing he couldn’t do on a critical third down: throw an interception. Four plays later, and with 44 seconds left, the Jets got the ball back on their own 18. And three plays after that the Jets’ playoff hopes were dashed in the most Fitzpatrick way ever: another interception. It was a sadly fitting end to what was an otherwise remarkable Jets season.
It was the 11th time in Fitzpatrick’s 11-year career that he missed the playoffs — which is still better than Bills’ recent history.
10 minutes you won’t get back
Will Brinson and I fire up the podcast machine for your listening pleasure. Topics in Episode 2: Is Chubby Rex a better coach than Skinny Rex? If the Bills lose and fall to 0-2, does Ryan make it to Halloween? Can the Jets’ offense find its footing against a suspect Bills D? Can old-man Revis return to form, or should we rename the island the retirement community?
* Remember, you can follow us on Soundcloud
By the time the Patriots took the field on Sunday night to face the Cardinals, the Bills, Jets and Miami Dolphins had all lost. Put another way: None of the three other teams in the AFC East could capitalize on New England having to face the NFC’s Super Bowl favorite — in Arizona, no less — without Tom Brady , Rob Gronkowski , Dion Lewis and their two starting offensive tackles.
By the way, the Brady and Gronk-less #Patriots are already in first place by themselves in the AFC East.
— Bill Williamson (@BWilliamsonNFL) September 12, 2016
And it gets worse if you hate Boston-area sports:
— Patriots 1-0 (@YoRealityCheck_) September 12, 2016
If you can’t gain ground on the Brady-less Patriots, then it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing.
More on those Color Rush uniforms …
The Color Rush unis make their 2016 debut on Thursday, and it will be the first of 15 games that, according to Nike, feature “a full head-to-toe monochromatic look … that draws inspiration from both current and historic uniform schemes.”
And unlike last season, when this happened:
The Bills will again wear all-red uniforms, and the Jets, as we mentioned above, will wear all white. But it’s somehow more boring than that:
Yep, that’s right: New York will be wearing their garden-variety white unis.
You can watch the game on Twitter this year
Back in August, Twitter outbid the likes of Amazon, Yahoo! Inc. and Verizon for the right to stream Thursday night NFL games online in 2016.
Twitter will stream 10 Thursday night regular-season games — the same 10 games that CBS and NBC will broadcast — and NFL Network will broadcast the other six games on the Thursday night schedule. In June 2015, the NFL partnered with Yahoo! Inc. to stream the 2015 Week 7 Bills-Jaguars game that took place in London.
Keep an eye on these guys
Tyrod Taylor: Taylor had a fantastic 2015 season, and he definitely earned that new contract. But if the Bills are to have any chance in 2016, he has to play like a franchise quarterback. He was 15 of 22 for just 111 yards and no touchdowns against the Ravens. And while one subpar game doesn’t suddenly negate the 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions from a year ago, the Bills don’t have the luxury of waiting around for everything to come together. They needed a win last week, and need one even more now with the Cards and Pats on the horizon.
Brandon Marshall: The Jets managed just two touchdowns in five trips to the red zone last Saturday. And Marshall, a touchdown machine a year ago (he had 14 in 2015), was targeted eight times and finished with three catches for 32 yards. Marshall battled a hip injury in the days leading up to the game, and Fitzpatrick missed offseason workouts while waiting for a new contract, so perhaps we can mark it up to rust.
“We were just sloppy down there,” Marshall said after the game, via NJ.com. “Poor execution. It’s something we pride ourselves in, and we didn’t get it done. That’s just not good enough. We pride ourselves on the red zone. That was the poorest execution I’ve ever seen on our side in the red zone since I’ve been here.”
Sammy Watkins : It’s fair to say Watkins hasn’t lived up to expectations. It’s not entirely his fault; the 2014 draft class was deep at wide receiver, and the Bills still decided to trade up for Watkins, who came into the season with a respectable 125 catches for 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns in 29 career games. Of course, the Bills could have stayed put and drafted Odell Beckham Jr., but since time travel is impossible, there’s nothing anyone can do about it now. The more pressing concern is if Watkins, who is dealing with discomfort in his surgically repaired foot, will suit up for the game. He participated in Tuesday’s walkthrough and said that he plans to play.
Darrelle Revis : Revis Island isn’t the exclusive resort it once was. Not after A.J. Green went for 180 yards on 12 catches last Sunday. To be fair, those weren’t all on Revis. There appeared to be several blown coverages from Jets’ safeties. Either way, the optics were bad. But Ryan, who coached Revis for four seasons in New York, isn’t buying it.
“You can count on maybe, one hand for sure, how many times that’s happened to Revis,” Ryan told reporters. “I remember Stevie Johnson had a big day on Revis once. That happens occasionally but that Green kid is — that’s a pretty darn talented receiver right there. So you put him in those kind of situations against any corner in the league, and then that kid can have a big day on you.”
From Revis Island to Fantasy Island
The CBSSports.com Fantasy Football crew isn’t sold on Watkins, at least not yet. Chris Towers explains:
If Watkins had just had the bad game Sunday, you could write it off. You don’t want to see one of your top wide receivers held to 43 yards on four catches, but I don’t expect anyone is freaking out about Brandon Marshall right now either. However, Watkins’ poor performance came on the heels of a report his surgically repaired foot is not 100 percent healthy, and was then followed up by Monday’s bombshell report that he might need to be shut down for several weeks because of ongoing discomfort. Watkins already wasd a risk coming into the season, given how often we see players suffer setbacks with foot injuries, but it’s a bad sign that he couldn’t make it through one game without the issue flaring up. Even if Watkins can manage the pain and play through this injury, it feels like only a matter of time until he goes down. Watkins looks like one of the biggest risks these days, and someone who might not go in the top-25 at the position if we were drafting right now.
Who ya got?
Half of the eight CBSSports.com experts have the Jets beating the Bills in Buffalo and covering -1.5.
“The Bills didn’t look good in the opener, and they will be without receiver Sammy Watkins. The Jets defensive front was outstanding against the Bengals, and that will be in play here. The Jets blew a game at Buffalo in the season finale with a playoff berth on the line last year. They won’t blow this one.”
— Pete Prisco, who has the Jets winning, 23-17
Get more expert picks and a further analysis of the betting angles and trends by visiting SportsLine’s preview of the Thursday night matchup.
They said it
Rex Ryan, whose twin brother Rob joined the Bills’ staff this offseason, is apparently willing to do anything to get a win. He recently told the New York Post that he had his lap band surgically removed in solidarity with Rob.
“I did it a long time ago, so I’m not going to get into those things,” Ryan said. “But as somebody pointed out, several times, we won more games when I was heavier, so I’ll do anything for the squad.”
Last month, Rex said he had gained 30 pounds since hiring Rob. At this rate, the Bills could finish 15-1.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Rex Ryan looks to keep streak alive in Bills’ Color Rush Thursday matchup with Jets