Win and maybe -- just maybe -- still in

Finally, a chance to write a column after a Bills win. <P><P> Not only that, but a column when they're favored to make it two wins in a row. The odds makers are assuming that, playing at home, Buffalo can beat the Jets.

Let's take a look at this game. On the surface, it would appear that neither team has much to play for. They're both 5-7 and three games behind the Dolphins, who are in position for the final AFC playoff berth.

But take a closer look at this weekend's schedule. In the AFC North, either Cincinnati or Baltimore has to lose when they play each other. Denver, currently two games ahead of the Jets and Bills, has to play league-leading Kansas City.

The Dolphins have to visit the Patriots, who have survived the loss of Lawyer Milloy well enough to have the NFL's second-best record. And we know how poorly the Fish usually play during December. Don't forget, either, that the Bills can pick up another game on Miami when it visits Ralph Wilson Stadium Dec. 21. New England, Philadelphia and the Jets also remain on the Fish schedule, giving them ample chance to swim out of the playoff race.

That's getting way ahead of ourselves. Not even stopping to consider that Buffalo also has to play the Titans and the Patriots on the road, the Bills are not a lock to defeat any of their final four opponents.

Their defense is playing well enough to win most game, which is more than we can say about the Jets' D. Another positive sign this week is that the Jets are coming off a tough Monday night win over Tennessee. So they're a little bit like a pitcher who's short one day's rest in the World Series. Bills fans can just hope the New Yorkers aren't anything like Josh Beckett.

In contrast, Buffalo is coming off an easy win over a Giants team that came into its home team in equally dire straits and left in worse shape. Drew Bledsoe played his best game in more than a month to help wake a moribund offense.

Those are positive factors.

On the other hand, the Bills aren't even sure Bledsoe can play against the Jets after taking shots to his head in each of the previous two games. And he's nearly at 100 per cent compared to the offensive line. With Mike Pucillo out last week -- addition by subtraction? -- they went to Ross Tucker at right guard, and he performed well. But now Jonas Jennings is done for the season because of a broken toe. In his place will be Marcus Price -- or possibly Marques Sullivan, the most forgotten NFL player this side of Ron Dayne.

So we could say that the Bills are hurting practically from head to toe -- the dings to Bledsoe's head, Eric Moulds' groin injury, Travis Henry's fractured fibula, Jennings' toe.

Will the home field be enough? Will whoever plays quarterback get enough protection from whoever is left on the O-line to put some points on the board?

We don't know the answers to those questions. And we don't know whether the winner of the Bills-Jets game still can make it to the postseason. What we do know is that if the loser of that game will definitely miss the playoffs.


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