Chris Ivory eager to snap slump vs. Tyrod Taylor, Bills


Rex Ryan was one of the biggest sports figures in New York during his six-year tenure as coach of the Jets. He returns to the Meadowlands as the coach of the Bills in one of the most anticipated Thursday Night Football matchups of the season.

Here's what we'll be watching for in a game with big playoff ramifications:

1. Rex Ryan built his reputation in Baltimore and New York on stingy defense, but that hasn't been a team strength in Buffalo. The Bills rank 16th in the league this season, a steep drop from 2014, when they finished fourth under then-defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Jets are sitting at fourth in overall defense but are in a slump, surrendering an average of 29 points per game and 1,240 yards over the last three weeks.


2. What happened to the Chris Ivory breakout season? The running back has rushed for just 84 yards over his last three games and is coming off a historically poor performance against the Jaguars in which he managed just 26 yards on 23 carries. Through Week 6, the Jets led the NFL with 146 yards per game on the ground. They've dipped to 14th amid their recent slump. One problem? Center Nick Mangold has missed most of the last two weeks with a neck strain. He should play Thursday. The Jets also sent right guard Willie Colon to injured reserve Wednesday in a surprise move, putting pressure on backup Brian Winters.

3. The Bills are a much more dangerous team when Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins are on the field together. Buffalo has averaged 33.1 points per game when its triplets are healthy. Unfortunately for Ryan, that's happened just four times this season. McCoy (shoulder) and Watkins (ankle) were limited in practice but are probable against the Jets.

4. The best matchup of the night should be Darrelle Revis vs. Sammy Watkins. Revis had success against Watkins last season with the Patriots, but Watkins is coming off his best performance of the season in Sunday's win over the Dolphins (eight catches, 168 yards, one TD). Revis Island remains an unfriendly place for opposing No. 1 receivers, but the All-Pro has had some hiccups in recent weeks against young bucks Amari Cooper and Allen Robinson. Watkins counts as another.

5. Ryan stirred up some old demons by naming IK Enemkpali a team captain for this game, but New York's quarterback situation hasn't been this good since a healthy Brett Favre was leading the way in 2008. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the team's MVP, serving as a surprisingly efficient facilitator for the offense despite his physical limitations and a jacked up left thumb that could require surgery as soon as Friday. His Total QBR (ESPN's version of passer rating) is 76.7, good for third in the NFL and ahead of some guys named Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. That shows us a flaw in the Worldwide Leader's analytics, but the greater point is intact: Fitzpatrick has been a lifesaver for the Jets.