Bills and Jets square off in a battle of pride

By Connor Byrne  |   Friday, December 30, 2005  |  Comments( 0 )

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This Sunday, the Buffalo Bills (5-10) and New York Jets (3-12) will ring in the New Year, and say goodbye to disappointing seasons, by playing each other for the second time this season. Back in October, the Bills got the better of the Jets in a 27-17 finish at Ralph Wilson Stadium. This time, the prideful Jets will try and even the score in the Meadowlands.

Last week, the Bills, led by quarterback Kelly Holcomb and cornerback/kick returner Terrence McGee, shocked the Cincinnati Bengals in a 37-27 victory. As for the Jets, they took part in the final Monday Night Football game on the ABC network. Unfortunately, they were upended by the New England Patriots, 31-21.

For reasons unbeknownst to many (including me) outside the Bills' organization, coach Mike Mularkey has elected to start Holcomb once again. J.P. Losman is currently listed as probable but for some inexplicable reason, is too banged up to start this game.

Certainly, Holcomb will try to add to his own stock for 2006. If he turns in another solid effort, he'll likely get an opportunity to be the Bills' starting quarterback next season. Holcomb will once again utilize his top two receivers, Eric Moulds and Lee Evans, to try and crack the code of the Jets' 2nd ranked pass defense. It definitely won't be easy. The Jets' secondary, led by Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, has dominated the opposition's passing game all year. Law will have his hands full against Moulds, who may be ending his 10-year career with the Bills on Sunday. The salary cap will likely be the demise of the veteran receiver in Buffalo.

One of the main things to watch this weekend for the Buffalo Bills will be their offensive line. Can they protect Holcomb against the Jets' very good front seven? It'll certainly be tough. Jets defensive end John Abraham, an upcoming free agent possibly in his final game with the Jets, will look to end the year with a bang and increase his future salary by crashing the Bills' backfield. If the Bills' line can't stop the Jets' line, it'll be an incredibly long day for Buffalo.

Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger is probably making his final start for quite some time. It's likely that the Jets will either return a healthy Chad Pennington next year, or find a QB in the draft or free agency. Unfortunately for Brooks, he'll have to leave it all on the field on Sunday because it will be awhile before he runs an offense again. Bollinger will get the opportunity to go up against the Bills' 20th ranked pass defense. He'll need to utilize his top two receivers, Laveranues Coles (69 receptions) and Justin McCareins (41 receptions), to baffle the Bills' secondary.

As for that secondary, it could be the final game of Nate Clements' Bills career. The cornerback will draw big money in the offseason and could bolt for a higher payday elsewhere, if he's not re-signed by the Bills. Frankly, Clements has underachieved this season but other teams may be blinded by the fact that he's a Pro Bowl alternate.

The Bills' running game has been an incredibly large disappointment this season. Willis McGahee never lived up to the hype and it paralyzed the already weak Bills' offense. Earlier in the year, McGahee rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. In his two career starts against New York, McGahee has tallied an impressive 280 yards on the ground.

That comes much to the chagrin of friend, Jets linebacker, and former University of Miami teammate Jon Vilma. Robbed a couple weeks ago of a chance to go to the Pro Bowl, Vilma will be looking to shut down the Bills and their running game in the final contest of the season.

As for the New York Jets, their running game never took flight this year either. Future Hall-of-Famer Curtis Martin tallied just 735 yards and 5 touchdowns in the most disappointing season of his career. Perhaps a salary cap casualty in the offseason, Martin will be looking to end the year, and possibly his Jets' career, with a bang this weekend. It shouldn't be too difficult against the Bills' 32nd ranked run defense. After all, Martin gashed the Bills for 148 yards earlier in the season. It would be nice to see the living legend on his season on a high-note and have one more big day.

The coaching matchup in this game pits two men who may not return to their respective sidelines next season. For the Bills, Mularkey has handled his veterans poorly, his 2nd-year quarterback poorly, and the play-calling duties poorly. Barring some sort of great awakening by frugal Bills owner Ralph Wilson, it's likely that Mularkey will stay on in Buffalo for at least one more year.

As for Jets coach Herm Edwards, he may not be so lucky. He was given the vote of confidence by Jets owner Woody Johnson earlier in the year but we'll have to wait and see what happens on this one. Edwards has garnered a lot of criticism in his tenure with the team but the fiery coach deserves to return next season. He's been dealt a bad hand with injuries and aged veterans. The situation for Edwards hasn't been good, but he's kept his guys fighting every game.

This game should be played pretty close between two of the worst teams in the NFL. I wouldn't expect a blowout from either side because both teams will be playing for pride, and future employment. If it comes down to special teams, the edge will definitely go to the Bills. Even if it doesn't, I still think the Bills have the better team and will finally put a road win on the board for the 2005-2006 season.

On the bright side for the Jets, a loss could get them USC running back Reggie Bush. That's enough to make any fan smile this holiday season.

Mark it down... Buffalo Bills win 23-16.

New York Jets injury report: DT Dewayne Robertson (thigh), DE Shaun Ellis (hamstring) and DB Oliver Celestin (ankle), are all listed as questionable. Cornerback Ty Law is probable with a foot injury.

Buffalo Bills injury report: Safety Coy Wire is out with a hamstring injury. OL Mike Williams is questionable with a chest injury. Lastly, QB J.P. Losman is probable with a thigh injury.

Connor Byrne can be reached at cbyrne@realfootball365.com
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