Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
CBS Sports analyst Bart Scott is no stranger to the New York Jets or to Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan. The former NFL linebacker played for Ryan in Baltimore and then made the trip up I-95 with him to MetLife Stadium where he played for Ryan for four seasons.
Now, Scott is one of the many CBS Sports analysts looking forward to watching the drama unfold on Thursday Night Football this week as Rex Ryan returns to his old haunt for the first time since being fired at the end of the 2014 season.
The Jets are 5-3 and the Bills are 4-4, but both are in the thick of a Wild Card race, and both are out to stick it to each other in the form of a ‘W.’
Scott spoke about the Jets-Bills game, the Ryan revenge factor, and the Patriots-Giants and Dolphins-Eagles matchups as well in an exclusive interview with CBS Local Sports.
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets – Thursday, Nov. 12 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NFL Network
The Bills look like a different team week-to-week, what needs to remain consistent for them to keep winning?
Bart Scott: “Just their fundamentals really. They have had a lot of injuries, its been a tale of two different teams this season. The injury bug struck early and they really missed Tyrod and Shady (LeSean McCoy), but they became rejuvenated coming out of a bye. Also, it seems like they finally found a way to get Sammy Watkins involved in the offense. With guys like Charles Clay and Percy Harvin, that’s who they expected to lean on to build their offense and it’s hard when you’re planning on having those guys and you don’t have them anymore.”
With Rex Ryan facing his former team, do you think winning is enough for him, or is he looking to blow them out?
Bart Scott: “Rex is always very passionate and emotional, and he always wants to beat someone he knows and has a relationship with personally.
Whenever we played against Rob (Ryan), he wanted to beat Rob. He used to call it “The Buddy Bowl,” and he does a really good job of making sure everybody’s aware of it. It could be anybody, whether it’s assistants that are let go or guys who were being considered for a job – everybody wants to win a certain way for a reason.
Also, he (Rex) didn’t get the resources he needed to win from John Idzik. Ironically, the next year they made all these moves to compete and if they made them last year we would be speaking about the Jets like this then. Instead, Idzik chose to sabotage Rex and I think it was to get a guy like Dan Quinn, because you know that most GMs want to bring in their own guy as head coach.”
Can the Jets or the Bills catch the Patriots or are they both playing for a Wild Card spot?
Bart Scott: “This is for the Wild Card, this game has major playoff Wild Card implications. Now you have the Steelers who are in contention, and also have to look at the Raiders. The Raiders already have the tiebreaker against the Jets and almost had the head-to-head edge against the Steelers this week.
It’s really all about getting your team into the best position to get a spot. Most guys in those locker rooms understand that you don’t have to win the division to win in the playoffs and you don’t have to win it to win the Super Bowl. A bunch of the guys on the Jets remember that from Rex’s years too. You don’t have to play at home to be successful.”
Are injuries the only thing that can really take down the Patriots? How big is Dion Lewis’ injury?
Bart Scott: “Losing Dion Lewis is big and now they have to find somebody to replace him. He’s been really effective out of the backfield because most teams have been trying to find ways to double Gronkowski and Edelman. I don’t think anybody knew he could catch so well out of the backfield, whether it’s on a screen and in the draw game. Blount (LeGarrette) is more of a power back, he isn’t the type of guy who can do what Lewis did so they need a guy to fill that void. At the same time, they’ll have to build chemistry with Tom Brady and really understand his idiosyncrasies such as his eye contact, his hand movement and stuff like that.”
What can the Giants do, if anything, to beat New England?
Bart Scott: “The Giants don’t have the weapons to beat New England. San Francisco reminded us anybody can win any game this past weekend and so did the Colts. I’m not saying they can’t win, I’m just saying the Pats are at a high level and the Giants don’t have a pass rush or the type of secondary to disrupt Brady.
The next big challenge for the Patriots is the Broncos or Jets. The Jets because they’ll be all in. The Patriots will likely have the division locked up by then and the Jets may have a real opportunity, mostly because of the playoff implications for them at that point.”
Eli Manning has been more consistent this year, how much does having Odell Beckham Jr. and Reuben Randle help him.
Bart Scott: “Well, not having Victor Cruz has hurt them, because now they have to worry about Odell late in the year because he’s carrying the offense. Sometimes they’re getting production from Vereen, but not a lot from the tight end position. They really haven’t found a way to open the offense up. They had big success against the Saints, but that’s the New Orleans Saints. Those types of games, if you don’t win, will hurt you. That was one of the games fans like to watch, but as a defender, that was hard to watch.”
Until the loss to the Bills, Miami looked like a different team since the firing of Joe Philbin. What’s been the main difference?
Bart Scott: “The difference is everybody’s buying in. Sometimes the coach loses the locker room and the message becomes stale. The players believe in coach Campbell. He’s got a passionate approach and it’s refreshing to the team. You saw that in the Colts game – somebody doing something different with a different voice. I don’t know what Campbell did, but maybe he gave the players more input and they responded. The loss of Cameron Wake, though, is going to hurt because you can’t replace him with one person. They can blitz and create pressure and put more pressure on their offense that way, but it also puts more pressure on your secondary. We like to call the run to the playoffs the “dash for the cash” in November and December. They’re still within striking distance of other teams, but their margin for error is reduced behind those two straight losses they suffered.”
How important was it for Philly to get DeMarco Murray on track last night against Dallas and to keep him involved moving forward?
Bart Scott: “You have to keep him involved because he’s a major talent. He’s not an East-West runner, he’s like Adrian Peterson, and you saw what Norv Turner did to AP and he didn’t look right. With what they’re asking him to do, Ryan Mathews is better for that style. You hear the announcer and other guys say, ‘Mathews looks better’ and whatnot. It’s because Matthews gets corners – he’s got flexible hips. You can’t ask AP, Todd Gurley and guys like Murray to run East-West like that.”
Sam Bradford is looking better lately. Even though they are just 4-4, do you think the Eagles made the right decision in trading for him?
Bart Scott: “The eyeball test didn’t look good against the Cowboys team that’s missing a bunch of guys on defense. Randy Gregory gave them young rusher energy, but then they lost Sean Lee to a concussion and they still needed OT to win the game. It definitely takes a guy time to get more comfortable in a system, but by no means do they look like barnburners.
The problem is, if the Giants lose this week and if the Eagles lose too, Dallas is still within striking distance. These teams failed to distance themselves when they had the chance like teams failed to do so last year in the NFC North. The Lions faltered with Rodgers out, same thing here. When you have a team down – no Dez Bryant, no Tony Romo – you bury them by making sure you win and create a wide margin. Now if Dallas wins and Philadelphia loses, they’re only two games behind.”