The legendary wrestler Ric Flair once said “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”
In Todd Bowles’ case, he has to beat the man whom he replaced to avoid a similar fate.
The one divisional foe Bowles hasn’t beaten yet is the Buffalo Bills. As everyone knows, those Bills are led by Bowles’ predecessor, Rex Ryan, who has Flair’s bravado but the success of Doink the Clown (last wrestling reference I swear). Not only did the Jets lose to Ryan and his ragtag bunch twice last season, they put up a pathetic effort in both contests.
The first game between Bowles and Ryan had a similar feel to this week’s upcoming contest. It was a Thursday night game at MetLife Stadium. Both teams wore hideous Color Rush uniforms. But the uniforms might have been the prettiest part of the game. The Jets had plenty of opportunities to win, but seemed to make every wrong play and decision possible in a 22-17 defeat.
The second game was the more memorable, as the Jets imploded at the formerly named Ralph Wilson Stadium. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and the boisterous Ryan was all smiles after playing spoiler once again. This time, he quashed his old team’s playoff hopes with a hauntingly identical 22-17 victory.
Bowles and Ryan are polar opposite personalities. While Ryan had to actively say he was downplaying Thursday night’s game, Bowles seems to downplay everything. This upcoming opportunity for revenge was no exception to Bowles’ typically subdued approach.
“It’s not redemption, it’s a division rival,” Bowles said Monday. “Anybody knows to win the division, you have to go through Buffalo, Miami and New England. Buffalo is just up first for us, so we have to go and play and they beat us twice last year. They showed up and made more plays. This is a new year for us, a new year for them, so hopefully we learn from the mistakes we made yesterday and go in and play.”
Forget about winning the division. New England proved the AFC East crown is still on Bill Belichick’s head this season. This game might not be about redemption, but Buffalo isn’t just the first division rival to appear on the 2016 schedule. This game means so much more for a couple of reasons.
New York already let a really strong victory slip out of their hands in a fashion only Gang Green could muster. The Jets simply must beat the Bills to preserve their playoff hopes.
Yes, it’s only Week 2. Fine. But understand what lies ahead for the Jets. New York travels to Kansas City, hosts Seattle, travels to Pittsburgh, and then travels to Arizona. Those are four playoff teams from last year and four potential Super Bowl contenders. The Jets can’t afford to dig themselves into an 0-2 hole, because 0-2 could very quickly spiral into 0-4, or 1-5. That would signify disaster.
It’s safe to say if the Jets escape this arduous stretch with a 3-3 record that their playoff hopes would be well intact. An 0-2 start would make 3-3 next to impossible to accomplish. Good luck finding three feasible wins among that slate.
Can the Jets go into Arrowhead Stadium and outlast the Chiefs? Maybe. How about stymie Pittsburgh’s high-flying passing game? It’s possible, but did you see the Jets secondary against the likes of Brandon LaFell last week? The Seahawks game is certainly winnable, but Russell Wilson is a magician and the Jets tend to struggle with mobile quarterbacks. A Monday night showdown in the desert against a ticked off Cardinals team that already has one loss to an AFC East team on its record? Yeah, good luck there.
A bad start to this season and all of the good that was accomplished during last year’s 10-6 season will be severely questioned. Whether that’s right or wrong, the Jets could be deemed as a fluke.
Most importantly, Bowles would be viewed more like his predecessor than the man in charge of the franchise’s revitalization. The “Same Old Jets” moniker would float around the Internet like chain emails — scratch that, more like political hot takes on Facebook (have to recognize the audience).
Bowles is right. This isn’t about redemption. It’s about much more than that. A win against the Bills prevents a potential tailspin and prevents Bowles from comparisons to the man leading the charge in Buffalo.