Mangini, Jets wary of the Bills
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - The way Eric Mangini and the New York Jets raved about the Buffalo Bills, you'd think they were planning to face the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.
During his news conference Wednesday, Mangini went on and on about how dangerous Buffalo's offense can be, how disruptive the defense is and how exceptional the special teams are.
"Across the board, they present problems," Mangini said. "And it's a difficult place to play."
Forget the fact that the Bills are 0-3. The Jets insist they aren't taking their game at Buffalo on Sunday lightly.
"It's deceiving because the teams that they've played against are 8-1 combined," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "Pittsburgh, New England and Denver are not slouch teams. They're playing good competition, so you can't look at their record."
What the Jets can look at is the fact the Bills have lost so many key players during the last few months, including quarterback J.P. Losman. Buffalo will start rookie Trent Edwards against New York after Losman sprained a knee during a 38-7 loss at New England last weekend.
The Bills have seven players on injured reserve, including starting linebacker Paul Posluszny, cornerback Jason Webster, free safety Ko Simpson and offensive lineman Jason Whittle. Linebackers Keith Ellison (high ankle sprain) and Coy Wire (sprained knee) are also sidelined for at least a few more weeks. They've also dealt with the loss of tight end Kevin Everett, who's recovering from a severe spinal cord injury.
Combined with the fact the Bills rank last in the NFL in both total offense and defense, this would appear to be one of the easier road games on the Jets' schedule.
"We're definitely not overconfident, especially remembering what happened last year when the stats were similar and they racked up about 470 yards on us," Vilma said.
Actually, it was 475, back in Week 3 last season. The Jets went up to Orchard Park and held on 28-20 after the Bills cut it to a one-possession game before falling short. The next meeting 11 weeks later didn't end as well for New York, which gave up three big plays in a 31-13 loss. Willis McGahee had a 57-yard touchdown run, Lee Evans caught a 77-yard scoring pass and Nate Clements returned an interception 58 yards for a TD.
While McGahee and Clements are no longer with the Bills, the Jets insist Buffalo is not lacking in talent.
"We understand we're not playing an 0-3 team," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "We're playing a team that's extremely tough."
That seemed to be theme in the Jets' locker room, so the Bills shouldn't expect any bulletin board material this week.
"Regardless of what the opponent's record is, it's just as important for us to win the game," Mangini said.
The teams have actually played each other tough during the last several seasons. Since 1998, the teams have split their two regular-season meetings every year except 2002, when New York won both.
"This is a big game, and I don't even look at the stats," Pennington said. "I quit looking at those stats and just concentrate on the film because it's a different story."
But is there really so much concern as they go up against a bruised and battered Bills team that has had a miserable time on defense so far• Buffalo has allowed the most total yards per game, yards per play, yards rushing and passing per game, and first downs per game in the NFL.
"Anytime that you are playing against a team like this, you have your work cut out for you," wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. "When I look at them on film, I see 10 or 11 guys in the frame at the end of every play. ... The stats and everything can be misleading about this team. We know we have a ballgame ahead of us."
And it's at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a traditionally loud venue where the weather is always unpredictable.
"Orchard Park is one of the toughest places that I've ever played in," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "The crowd is always into the game no matter how the Bills are playing and no matter what their record is."
Considering all the factors, Mangini was jokingly asked if there was any possible way the Jets could win this week.
"We're working on that," Mangini said with a grin. "We have a long week ahead of us."