<
>

Scouting the Bills

The Bills have come a long way since last Jan. 2, when they were embarrassed by the Jets' jayvee team in a meaningless season finale. Here's a quick take on the Bills (5-2), one of the surprise teams in the NFL:

• For the Jets, it's all about stopping two players, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and RB Fred Jackson. Fitzpatrick, the Harvard man, is the sixth-leading passer in the NFL (97.8 rating) and Jackson (721 yards, 5.5 ypc) is the fourth-leading rusher. Jackson, one of the most under-rated players in the league, has five 100-yard rushing games.

• The Bills are what the Jets wanted to be on offense, a relatively balanced attack that spreads the field and can beat you with the run or the pass. (Run-pass ratio: 45-55.) They use three- and four-receiver packages the entire game, relying on Fitzpatrick's ability to deliver the ball quickly and accurately. When they run, they exploit defenses that have only five or six players in the box. The Jets won't be in their base defense much at all.

• The Bills blanked the Redskins, 23-0, their first shutout since 2006, but that doesn't mean that all is right with their defense. Before that, the Bills had allowed at least 400 total yards in five straight games, the longest streak by any team since the 2008 Chiefs. Their perennially awful run defense is slightly better with ILB Nick Barnett and rookie NT/DE Marcel Dareus in the middle, but it's still allowing 4.9 per rush. The Jets are licking their chops, having averaged 279 rushing yards per game over the last four meetings.

• If Mark Sanchez & Co. can avoid turnovers, it will be a significant boost to their chances of winning. The Bills' defense is all about forcing turnovers (we know they're not a shut-down defense), and when they don't create extra opportunities ... well, they lose. The Bills have lost 15 straight when they don't force a turnover. For the record, the Bills and tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways.

• Weird trend of the week: The Bills are only the eighth team in NFL history to start 4-0 at home after starting the previous season at 0-4.

• Former Jets WR/KR Brad Smith has had a limited impact in Buffalo. He's had only 30 touches -- 0-for-1 passing, 19 rushes for 84 yards (out of the Wildcat), five receptions for 43 yards and five kickoff returns for a 20.6 average.

• Like the Jets, the Bills' special teams are always excellent.