Bills escape snowy Buffalo to prepare to face Jets
Bills receiver Chris Hogan trudged through hip-high drifts of snow to get to Ralph Wilson Stadium. Tight ends Scott Chandler and Lee Smith shared a ride on a snowmobile.
All that was missing were Sherpas and sled dogs for the Bills to escape the clutches of snowbound Orchard Park and finally begin taking their focus off Mother Nature and instead on their next opponent, the AFC East rival New York Jets on Monday night.
It’s a “home” game which they’ll be playing at a neutral site in Detroit, and a day later than initially scheduled. The NFL relocated the game following a severe lake-effect storm dumped more than 5 feet of snow on the Buffalo region.
“We’re on a mission, and we can’t let the snow throw us off,” running back Anthony Dixon said before boarding the team’s charter flight to Detroit on Friday.
The Bills (5-5) are fading from the AFC playoff picture following two straight losses. The storm hasn’t exactly helped. Coming off an extended break since a 22-9 loss at Miami on Nov. 13, the Bills traveled to Detroit to finally practice after canceling sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” coach Doug Marrone said. “We’re going to get ourselves the best prepared we can to play a game.”
The Jets (2-8) are rested, coming off their bye week, and have had the advantage of practicing all week.
Jets coach Rex Ryan isn’t sure if the Bills need to practice given how Buffalo beat New York 43-23 in their last meeting on Oct. 26.
“They did force six turnovers on us the last time, so I don’t know if they want to change that formula,” he said.
Ryan insists the Jets are better than the team that struggled through an eight-game skid before a 20-13 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.
“This is a better football team, I think, than people realize,” Ryan said. “We get to go out and prove it.”
Here are some things to look for as the Bills attempt a season-series sweep for the first time since 2007:
NEUTRAL SITE: The Bills thought they were done giving away home games after their annual regular-season series of playing in Toronto was postponed this year.
The two teams met once in Toronto in 2009, when then-Jets starter Mark Sanchez threw a go-ahead touchdown to Braylon Edwards in a 19-13 win. That game was also played in prime time and under a roof, at Toronto’s downtown Rogers Centre.
The Bills had a 1-5 record at Toronto since the series began in 2008.
The Bills are familiar with playing in Detroit after rallying from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Lions 17-14 on Oct. 5. Dan Carpenter hit a 58-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to seal a game in which a fan shined a laser pointer from the stands in a bid to distract the Bills. The fan has since been charged and barred from attending events at Ford Field.
Fans are being offered free tickets to the game Monday night.
ON THE ROAD? The Bills left town and hope they can make it back. After contemplating spending next week practicing out of town to avoid the massive cleanup, Bills President Russ Brandon said his team plans to return to Buffalo following the game.
Brandon, however, still isn’t sure if Ralph Wilson Stadium will be ready in time to host Buffalo’s next home game against Cleveland on Nov. 30.
ON THE RUN: Though the Jets’ passing game has struggled, their ground attack has been a strength. New York has topped 130 yards rushing seven times this season, and is averaging 170 yards in its past four games.
The Jets face a Bills run defense that has suddenly sprung leaks. After limiting each of its first six opponents to under 90 yards rushing, Buffalo has given up 125 or more in each of its past four, including a season-high 175 to New York.
BAD MEMORY: Jets quarterback Michael Vick is relieved to have another shot at facing the Bills after his previous stint unraveled.
Vick took over in the second quarter last month after Geno Smith threw three interceptions. Though Vick eventually helped New York score 17 points to cut Buffalo’s lead to 24-17 at halftime, his outing was undone by an interception and two lost fumbles.
“I walked off the field with mixed emotions, and the only thing I could think about was all the mistakes that I made,” he said.
Ryan, however, stuck with Vick, who in two starts since has gone 31 of 46 for 328 yards with three TDs and no turnovers.
SACK MASTERS: Led by Marcell Dareus’ 10 sacks, the Bills have a league-best 39. The Jets are tied for eighth with 27.
AP freelancer Mark Ludwiczak contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL