You can't state the stakes for the Jets on Sunday in Buffalo any simpler than LaDainian Tomlinson did on Thursday afternoon.
"Let’s be honest: this next month is going to tell us if we’re going to be champs in the AFC East, and that’s the way we look at it. Starting with this game. Because we can’t be champs if we don’t win this game. It’s a big challenge. It’s kind of one of those situations where you can say, 'This is a do-or-die game.'"
Those kinds of statements are usually hyperbolic when there are nine games left to play in the season, but it is hard to find too much to quibble with in Tomlinson's comment. The Jets have put themselves behind the 8-ball with their 4-3 start, especially with three divisional games in the next four weeks against the two teams currently sitting on top of the standings.
Beating the Bills this week sets the Jets up to make a real second half run at the divisional crown and, should all break right, a bye in the first round as well. They would have the Patriots and Bills at home in two of their next three games with a trip to face a bad Denver team sandwiched in between.
You can't ask for more of a shot than that after losing three of your first five games, so the Jets have to take advantage of it by beating Buffalo this weekend. You can make a strong argument for the home team, but when you really break down every facet of the game, the Jets have the advantage.
They should be able to run the ball up the middle against a defense that's missing Kyle Williams in the center of the line and they should be able to pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick off the edges since the Bills are playing without their top two options at left tackle. Fitzpatrick is usually able to negate pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly, but the ascension of Kyle Wilson alongside Darrelle Revis means that the Jets should be able to keep the Bills receivers from getting open quickly enough for the Bills to make quick strikes.
Fred Jackson is worrisome on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield, but the Jets have the edge overall. That means avoiding the things that usually cause trouble for the Jets.
No slow starts offensively, even if it means going no huddle early and putting the game in Mark Sanchez's hands from the get-go, and a game plan predicated on attacking the Bills from the first minute of the game. Basically, the Jets need to play with urgency from the first moment of the game and things should work out for them.
That shouldn't be a problem if they were paying attention to Tomlinson.