By Shawn Lealos
This season has seen a number of less than interesting games on Thursday Night Football, with either a poor team battling a powerhouse, or in some cases two teams with losing records playing each other. This week sees two teams that actually have a solid story built in; division rivals where one team has a coach that was just fired by the other team last season. That will be the big story as Rex Ryan leads his Buffalo Bills into New Jersey to battle the Jets, one year after his termination as head coach.
Rex Ryan and the New York Jets
The New York Jets have not been to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath played for the team, but when Rex Ryan came to town, he was talking big. Along with that big talk came immediate dividends. One season after finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs, Ryan’s team finished 9-7 and made the postseason. They then made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. One year later, Ryan’s team finished with 11 wins and made it to the AFC Championship again, this time losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Ryan didn’t have another winning season in New York and the Jets fired him four years later, with an overall record of 46-50.
Rex Ryan arrives in Buffalo
In 2014, the Buffalo Bills finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. They fired their head coach and Rex Ryan immediately moved from New York to Buffalo. It almost looked like a carbon copy of his arrival with the Jets. Through the first eight games of the season, Ryan has compiled a 4-4 record, but there is reason for optimism. Ryan made a gutsy call at the start of the season when he named Tyrod Taylor as his starting quarterback, and he got Taylor back last week and went on to beat the Miami Dolphins. With Taylor as the starter, the Bills are 4-2.
Todd Boyles in New York
Replacing Rex Ryan in New York is Todd Boyles, which was an interesting hire. Ryan was at his best when it came to building the Jets defense into a powerhouse. Boyles is also a defensive coach, so little was done to fix the Jets offensive problems, but things have gone well for the Jets anyway. Boyles, much like Ryan in Buffalo, changed quarterbacks, starting Ryan Fitzpatrick over Geno Smith. He also has helped Chris Ivory turn into a running star and Brandon Marshall is playing as well as ever. Boyles, in his first eight games as the head coach, is 5-3.
Playing for a Wildcard
The Jets and Bills both need this win because they are not playing for the AFC East, they are playing for a wildcard berth. Unless the New England Patriots suffer a catastrophic collapse, they will win the division, which means that the Jets and Bills are playing for the best head-to-head record in the conference. The Jets are 4-2 and the Bills are 4-3 and the two teams play each other again in the final game of the season. The winner here could go a long way in determining the playoff spot, with the Jets in the driver’s seat right now.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.