It was going to be a statement game either way. The 4-3 New York Jets were going to crawl back into the race for the AFC East after an iffy season start, or the 5-2 Buffalo Bills were going to prove to an apathetic nation that they were, in fact, for real. In the end, both positions were proven to a point, though the Jets won the day with a 27-11 victory.
Things started off far worse for the Jets, though — their first drive took over 10 minutes, ate up 92 yards over 15 plays, and ended with an interception from Mark Sanchez to Jairus Byrd.
The Jets' second and third drives combined for 17 plays, 88 yards, and three points. It was the perfect inverse example of the kind of ball control offense the Jets prefer -- a purgatory in which they kept the ball just about the entire time, but could never punch it in. The Jets' next two drives, which came from Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions, ended in a missed field goal and a fumble, and the Jets ended the first half on downs.
That finally ended with 8:34 left in the third quarter, when LaDanian Tomlinson scored on a 1-yard run. The Jets scored touchdowns on their next two drives, and finally took the game out of the realm of competitiveness.
Meanwhile, the usually super-efficient Bills offense could do very little against a pass defense that generally shuts teams down, and a run defense that rebounded very well to corral running back Fred Jackson. Fitzpatrick completed less than half his passes (15 of 31) for 191 yards, just one touchdown, and those two picks. Jackson got 82 yards on the ground, but it took him 18 carries to do it. Receiver Stevie Johnson got one big play for 52 yards, but he caught just three passes on six targets and didn't score.
After his rocky start, Sanchez dialed it down and got more efficient than exciting — he completed 20 passes in 28 attempts for 230 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. But it was enough on a day when the Jets' defense reclaimed its supremacy, and both lines played much more to character than in weeks past.
And now, with matching 5-3 records, the Jets and Bills are waiting to see whether the 5-2 Patriots are ready to join them in the ring, or somehow stay above the fray.