Giants Must Beat Buffalo Or Face Elimination

The Buffalo Bills, who have missed the playoffs a team-record eight consecutive seasons, will play the role of spoiler again as they wrap up their roller-coaster year with games against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants (9-5) can clinch their third consecutive postseason berth with a victory and they will be a desperate team when they take the field Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Plenty of teams are on their heels for one of the wild-card spots in the NFC and they do not want to enter their final game at home against New England needing a victory, particularly if the Patriots can wrap up a perfect 16-0 regular season.

The Eagles (6-8), however, have already been knocked out of the playoff hunt.

"It's tough. We certainly fought hard and played hard to get ourselves in this situation (the playoff hunt)," said veteran wide receiver Lee Evans, who has never tasted postseason play since entering the NFL in 2004. "It's hard to look back on it now, but I'm still proud of everyone in this locker room and we'll still keep fighting."

Buffalo last made the playoffs in 1999. Not counting expansion Houston, which entered the league in 2002, the Bills, Lions and Arizona are the only teams not to make the playoffs this decade.

"We have to be men and we have to be professional," said cornerback Jabari Greer of finishing the season playing the best they can. "We have to continue to go out and fight and know that when we achieve our goals, times like this will make it sweeter. We still have two games left and there are still a lot of plays to be made. There are still a lot of opportunities for us to come together as a team."

As is the case in situations like these, the Bills can use the time to scout their roster and experiment if coach Dick Jauron so desires. Of course, Buffalo has suffered so many injuries, Jauron and his staff have gotten to see plenty of backups perform all season long.

From a coaching perspective, Jauron could allow more input on offense from quarterback coach Turk Schonert and quality control coach Alex Van Pelt, two men under consideration for the offensive coordinator's position that will come available when Steve Fairchild leaves to become head coach at Colorado State University at season's end.

"We want to win these games," Jauron said. "In terms of how it affects us in the future, I've never believed there's a lot of carryover except in attitude from one year to the next, but attitude is critically important. Once you play your last game of the year, whenever that is, there is a long time in between that and the next time you snap it for real and so a lot of things can happen and a lot of things have to happen. You've got to get a lot better. You've got to progress and keep progressing. In terms of these players right now for our young players, it's an opportunity to get more experience. As you mentioned, Trent (Edwards), Marshawn (Lynch) and Freddy (Jackson) and a number of other guys, just to see things more on the field. Different looks that they'll see this week and they can learn from them."

Jauron and Giants coach Tom Coughlin are longtime friends and coaching peers; Jauron was Coughlin's first defensive coordinator for the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and the pair guided Jacksonville to playoff appearances in '96, '97 and '98. They also coached together in Green Bay.

As usual, a Giants coach is feeling the heat in New York, where only a championship will do. The Giants can earn a third consecutive playoff berth under Coughlin and can wrap up an impressive 7-1 road record with a victory on Sunday.

Still, after last Sunday's 22-10 loss at home to Washington, critics are noting that Coughlin is in the throes of another second-half swoon. His team rocketed out to a 6-2 start but is 3-3 since and overall his Giants teams are 11-19 in the second half of seasons.

"What do we tell them?" said Coughlin, parroting a question about what does he tell his team with so much on the line Sunday. "We tell them exactly what we tell them every week. This is Buffalo week. Let's look at the tape, let's be aware of the fact of the mistakes that we made. Let's re-focus. Let's put ourselves in position to go on the road to Buffalo, whatever the weather might be, and win the game. That's what you tell them."

What about his job security and pressure from fans and media?

"There is no opportunity, if you will, or no time where you allow yourself to think beyond that," said Coughlin, a native of Waterloo, N.Y. "It doesn't make any sense. What does make sense is taking care of your own situation and circumstance by virtue of the team in front of you, and that is what we have to do this week as well."

The loss to the Redskins was compounded for the Giants by losing Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey to a broken leg. Kevin Boss and Michael Matthews will share snaps in his place. Shockey had 57 catches for 619 yards and three touchdowns.

"Obviously it will be tough (to replace him)," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He is a leader, he is one of our leading receivers, and he just makes tough plays and helps out this team in a lot of ways. Not only does he do the receiving but blocking as well."

One thing is certain on Sunday -- the Bills are in position to play loose and carefree while the Giants' collars will be tightening, particularly if the game starts swinging in Buffalo's direction.

"We are confident and we have to win a game and we are in the playoffs," Manning said.

"I think we're excited about it. You want the opportunity to play in a big game. Sometimes that's all you can ask for, and that sounds good to me. It's just a matter of, 'Can we go out there and play well and get a win?' "

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Bills lead, 6-3. Buffalo is 3-2 at home. The Bills won the last meeting, 24-7, on Nov. 30, 2003 at the Giants, when Drew Bledsoe directed three consecutive scoring drives to put the game away and their defense sacked Kerry Collins six times. In the teams' only playoff meeting, the Giants prevailed 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV in 1991 when Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal sailed wide right.

--Bills Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly continues to drop hints that the Bills' future in Western New York will be secured after the passing of owner Ralph Wilson, who is 89. Wilson said he will not leave the team to his heirs and it will be sold upon his death. "As long as I'm involved, I can't see them going anywhere else," Kelly told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle during an autograph signing. "One way or another, I will make sure this team stays here. I know people that are ready to step up. I think Mr. Wilson has the same vision I have, and that's to keep the team in Western New York." The Bills are valued at more than $700 million by Forbes magazine, but Kelly said raising money to purchase the club -- likely a purchasing group that includes many ex-players and businessmen -- is "the easy part." The difficult part would likely be gaining approval from other NFL owners to keep the team in Buffalo, which has struggled to remain financially viable in the region in the era of free agency and new stadium construction. Said Kelly: "I wish I could tell you more. Unfortunately, I can't say much. I'm just going to say that I'm not worried about the Bills leaving and I live here."

--Coach Dick Jauron couldn't confirm rumors that TE Kevin Everett will be at Sunday's game and plans to walk out onto the field. Everett suffered a life-threatening spinal-cord injury on Sept. 9 at Ralph Wilson Stadium against Denver. He has since regained the ability to walk short distances under his own power. He has been rehabilitating in Houston where he lives. Some of Everett's Bills teammates are hinting that he will be at Sunday's game provided everything goes as planned with his travel arrangements.

"We've all seen the Sports Illustrated pictures, but to have him back in the facility and to see him walk and hopefully if he does come back, address his teammates, it would be great," Jauron said. "It would be just an unbelievable thing. We've gone through this whole thing with him. We've certainly stayed in touch with him and it's just a tremendous story. In terms of the game itself, just to have him be here with us would be terrific. It would be really terrific."

--The Bills have inked WR/PR Roscoe Parrish to a contract extension, a move designed mostly to keep their strong special teams intact. Parrish has proven too wispy to be a consistent pass-receiving threat (he has 33 catches for 307 yards and one TD) but he's an electrifying punt return man, leading the NFL this season with a 17.5 average. His 386 return yards on just 22 chances is a team record, breaking the previous mark of Donnie Walker (384) set all the way back in 1974. A product of the University of Miami, Parrish was drafted with the 55th overall selection in the second round of the 2005 draft.

--The Bills have sold out all eight home games for the third time this decade (2003 and 2005). Last year, only half their home games sold out. A much more attractive schedule and fewer home games after Thanksgiving are credited as the main reasons. Overall, the Bills have sold out 35 of their last 40 dates.

--Milestone department: SS Donte Whitner has taken all 1,080 defensive snaps this season, the only player to do so. ... DE Aaron Schobel has started 106 consecutive games, second most in the NFL to Miami's Jason Taylor (128). ... P Brian Moorman has dropped a punt inside the opponent's 20-yard line in 19 consecutive games, a club record and the longest current streak in the league.

--The Bills gave up a safety in last week's loss to Cleveland when long snapper Ryan Neill parked the ball over Moorman's head and Moorman was forced to kick the ball through the end zone. Buffalo has yielded a safety in three consecutive seasons, tying the longest such streak in club history set twice before (1960-62 and 1969-71).

BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Number of Bills on injured reserve after FS George Wilson (ribs) was added to the list last week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Well, I'm very disappointed and I know everyone in this locker room is. We've been working so hard to make it to the playoffs and now we take a step back. But it's always about the next game and the next season and we still have next season for what is a young football team and hopefully we'll learn from all this." -- SS Donte Whitner, talking about the Bills' playoff run being over.

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