Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Jets' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the Buffalo Bills.
What a difference 16 games makes.
When the Jets last saw the Bills, it was the first week of the season and absolutely anything was possible. After they blew out Buffalo, it actually felt like only the positive half of that equation was in play.
It didn't take long for things to go the other way, of course, and now the Jets are preparing for the second totally meaningless game of the Rex Ryan era amid much discussion of which way to go in the future. The Bills present a pretty decent cautionary tale for the Jets to take to heart as they get ready for a crucial offseason.
Buffalo's wrapping up it's fourth straight year with 10 or more losses. Despite all that losing, the Bills have never gone the route of radically overhauling their club in hopes of building a winner from the ground up.
They've chosen to go the route of half measures instead. Decent players like Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick got new contracts, coach Chan Gailey stuck with veterans over younger players in the hopes of maximizing wins in the short term and the team went for big splashes in the free agent market as if they were a player or two away from winning the Super Bowl.
It's brought them no closer to that goal and essentially looks like they favor the comfort of mediocrity over the risks involved with making a bid for something bigger. It's a good lesson for the Jets to keep in mind as they decide just how much of a reaction to make to the last two seasons.
They can't argue that they're moving in the right direction and they can't point to more than a few young players who could be considered part of the core of a good team moving forward. You have to be realistic about the players and team you have, something that's dismaying given the Jets' habit of building every OK player into the second coming of Jim Brown and the easy line to draw from that habit to the Bills' current predicament.
With this game existing mostly for Vegas, we'll skip the players who will try to beat the Bills and look instead on what the Bills do now.
Keep 'Em - Running back C.J. Spiller never got a long look until Jackson was injured, but he has only looked back to see defenders futilely trying to catch him since then. He should be in the Pro Bowl and might have been the best back in the AFC this year.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has had the usual rookie ups and downs, but the ups have been promising enough to give the team another building block. Safety Jarius Byrd is going to need a new contract this offseason, but it is one that's actually deserved as opposed to some of the other ones.
Dump 'Em - Fitzpatrick rode half of a good season into a contract extension he should have never gotten since it isn't all that hard to find a guy whose upside is competent game manager. He should be gone and so should Gailey and G.M. Buddy Nix since they are the ones who judged Fitzpatrick worthy of that extension.
Needs - They pay Johnson like a top receiver, but he's a No. 2 at best and they need someone better to make their offense click. Mario Williams took half a year to start living up to his contract, so he needs a more brisk start to the season. The linebackers and cornerbacks other than Gilmore are also in need of assistance if the Bills want to avoid another year with double-digit losses.