It’s not the ideal venue for an NFL rivalry game, but the Rogers Centre will simply have to do.
“We could be playing in a parking lot,” said Perry Fewell, the fiery interim head coach of the Bills. “We don’t care. We’re just going to slug it out with each other.”
The 4-7 Bills and the 5-6 Jets might be just passing through, but what happens Thursday night could have a major effect on the AFC stretch run. A lot has changed in a hurry and a lot more could change before this weekend of head-on play in the AFC East is finished.
Before last weekend, the New England Patriots were firmly in control at the top of the division.
That may still prove to be true, but when the Patriots were smacked around Monday by the New Orleans Saints, the rest of the division felt the New England grip loosen just a bit.
Even the bottom-feeding Bills, with a win Thursday, coming off a convincing win over the Dolphins in Buffalo on Sunday, could see a tiny pinprick of light at the end of their tunnel. And then if the Dolphins can upset New England in Miami on Sunday, only two games will separate top from bottom as the December stretch run begins.
“We’re thinking one game at a time,” said Fewell after his team’s hour-long walkthrough under the dome Wednesday.
“If we can get the New York Jets, we’ll move on to the next one. The past is the past for us. We’re here to set a new future.”
The past two games have provided a glimpse of an immediate future that includes a lot of Terrell Owens, something that had been strangely missing from the impotent Buffalo attack. He and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was installed by Fewell as the starting quarterback two weeks ago, have been on the same page these past two games.
Owens has caught 14 passes the past two weeks, good for nearly 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s looking to liven things up in Toronto Thursday night.
“This my first time here playing,” Owens said. “I’ve been hearing last year was kind of boring, so I’m hoping it’s a little more exciting with myself here. So, I’m looking forward to it.
“People said it was a little lacklustre, so I’m hoping it’s a little more exciting. We plan to put on a show, and show Toronto what the NFL is all about.”
Fewell’s intent with the Buffalo offence has been to play an aggressive style and stretch the field. Fitzpatrick has embraced that concept. In the past two games he’s passed for 543 yards.
When the Bills beat the Jets 16-13 in overtime in New York Owens was held to three catches for a total of 13 yards by Darrelle Revis, one of the NFL’s best shutdown corners.
“I know it was pretty physical the last time we played them,” Owens said earlier this week. “But they are not going to be faced with the same team that they saw the first time. I hope they don’t think they are going to see the same me that they saw the first time.”
Fitzpatrick said he’s not going to be keeping track of Revis, per se.
“I’ll be aware, because I’m always aware of where Terrell will be. And that’s where (Revis) will be. It’s going to be a great matchup.”
Since Dick Jauron was fired two weeks ago, the talk out of Buffalo has been all about the search for a coaching successor to put this franchise back on an elite track.
There happen to be some major names on the sidelines these days, including Bill Cower, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan. Shanahan is the only one to have granted the Bills an interview. None of the others seem interested. Whether this celebrity search is just for show is unclear.
But if Fewell can reclaim this season from the scrap heap, he may leave them no choice.