The Jets Week 17 matchup brings the Buffalo Bills to MetLife Stadium without Rex Ryan and chalk full of irony.
Before the season, this one had all the makings of being an intriguing match up. After all, it was Rex Ryan’s Bills who knocked the Jets out of playoff contention last year on the final day of the season with a 22-17 victory in Buffalo.
But this time around, the story line is different.
Neither team has anything to truly play for. The Jets would probably rather lose this game to fall to 4-12. That would set up a more favorable draft position for a team that desperately needs to upgrade its talent. Gang Green would corral a top five pick with a loss.
And for the Bills, well, they’re the Bills.
As many have joked on social media, their playoff drought is almost old enough to buy cigarettes. With that last loss to Miami, the Bills have now missed the postseason in 17 consecutive years. Ryan has since been fired and Anthony Lynn has taken over as the interim coach.
The funny doesn’t stop there in Buffalo. EJ Manuel has been named the team’s Week 17 starter. So, congrats to him for graduating from the role of “hard count to draw the team offside” to the starting quarterback. The Bills are also trying to avoid a catastrophic situation that would see them have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to Tyrod Taylor if he suffered an injury.
Jets fans have little reason to laugh, though. This team has now been blown out in back to back weeks by divisional opponents by an average of 29.5 points. And in case that’s not good enough to help them climb the laughingstock ladder, there appears to be some dissension in the locker room.
Reports surfaced this week that wide receiver Brandon Marshall and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson aren’t on the best of terms. Now, this in itself shouldn’t be breaking news. There shouldn’t be a ton of happiness in a locker room of a team on the cusp of finishing eight games under .500. But said reports described their relationship as “tense at best.”
Marshall, who’s in the midst of a season he’d like to forget, called the Jets performance in Foxborough embarrassing. Rich Cimini of ESPN reported that Richardson said Marshall “should be embarrassed.” Unfortunately, he didn’t care to elaborate, but this does feel like there’s some animosity shared between the two Jets stars.
In a season rife with so much adversity, this should probably fall at the bottom of the list of things to be concerned about. There’s a chance that neither of them will return to the team next season. The Jets could look to undergo a seismic makeover, which could lead to trades of Marshall and Richardson.
Unfortunately, this also does speak to how Todd Bowles has lost the locker room, at least this season. The team has literally mailed it in the last two weeks. That’s not a good sign for a Bowles with minimal credibility as a head coach.
The Jets should absolutely not fire him at the end of the season.
He coached this team to a 10-6 record last year and came within a whisker of making the playoffs. This season hasn’t gone as expected, but he does deserve another chance to right the ship. But come next season, he needs to be able to control his team better than he did this time around. Winning cures everything and maybe, just maybe, he’ll get a quarterback that could help the cause.
So on Sunday, it’ll be the final game of the season for both the Jets and Bills. Two teams that came into the Week 1 with playoff aspirations.
Fitz vs. EJ, get the popcorn ready.