When the Bills take the field for the opening coin toss, they intend to send linebacker IK Enemkpali as one of the team's captains. Enemkpali, a sixth-round draft pick of the Jets in 2014, gained nationwide notoriety this offseason after he delivered a jaw-breaking punch to the face of quarterback Geno Smith. The incident forced Smith off the field for over a month and cost Enemkpali his job.
Ryan and the Bills swooped in soon after, signing the linebacker to their 90-man roster. Buffalo's decision to make Enemkpali a captain has understandably garnered attention, though Ryan has previously named players who were facing their former team as captains. However, Ryan responded with his signature irreverence. "It's not a slap in anybody's face," the coach told the media Tuesday.
Smith, on the other hand, tried to downplay the situation and said he "doesn't take it personal."
The Bills, who enter the matchup at 4-4, can get back above .500 with a win. And on the field, the Bills bring plenty of firepower with them to East Rutherford. The backfield tandem of LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams power the offense, which produced over 250 yards and a score last week against the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, the passing game has opened up with the return of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and wideout Sammy Watkins. The two combined for eight catches, 168 yards and a touchdown in their first game back together since Sept. 27, accounting for nearly all of the team's aerial production. The offense may need another big game, as the defense has given up an average of 28.3 points over its last three outings.
On the other side, the Jets find themselves with a 5-3 record and in control of the second spot in the AFC East. New head coach Todd Bowles has reconfigured the defense, which allows just 20.3 points per game this season, the ninth-fewest in the league. Bowles has found ways to get defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams all on the field for significant snaps, resulting in the top ranked run defense by Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings.
Even New York's offense has shown signs of life in 2015 after years of forgettable play. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, installed as the starter following Smith's broken jaw, has produced more good games than bad, while running back Chris Ivory is currently on pace for the first 1,000-yard season of his career. At the same time, Ivory has already struggled with a groin injury and may not have his normal burst when the team takes the field this week.
While the Jets' ground attack could suffer, their receivers could lift the offense up. A season after the Chicago Bears gave up on Brandon Marshall, the wideout has already exceeded his receiving total from 2014. Marshall is currently on pace to catch 108 passes for 1,460 yards and 10 touchdowns. Alongside him, receiver Eric Decker has finally justified the five-year, $36.25 million contract he signed with the team before the last season. Decker may also break the 1,000-yard barrier, a feat he last accomplished with an MVP quarterback throwing him passes in 2013.
But thanks to the presence of Ryan, no matter which team comes out on top, the victory will taste extra sweet.
How to watch
When: 8:25 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV: NFL Network
Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson