--The Bills have run the ball extremely effectively the last month with RB Marshawn Lynch averaging 98.8 yards in each of the past five games. He needs 114 yards to better last year's rookie total of 1,115 yards. The production makes last week's loss to the Jets all the more galling. With a three-point lead, all the Bills needed to do was run the clock out, but an ill-fated rollout pass just before the two-minute warning resulted in a sack and fumble by QB J.P. Losman. The Jets returned the fumble for the winning TD. The pass shocked Bills players. "The way we were running it, get a few more first downs, which we knew we were going to do, the game's over. So yeah, it was definitely a surprise," WR Josh Reed said. "Coach always says the ball is going to bounce crazy ways. But when you've got control over what you can do, that drives the knife in even deeper." Coach Dick Jauron took blame for the call and said he wished he "had it back."
--The Bills continue to decline comment on Jauron's job status, despite several published reports that he has signed a three-year contract. It's also known owner Ralph Wilson handed several key assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, one-year extensions last spring through 2009. If Wilson doesn't like the idea of eating Jauron's three-year deal, he may find eating Schonert's one-year contract more palatable.
--CB Jabari Greer, who has missed his last four starts with a knee injury, isn't likely to play in the team's final two games unless he's absolutely 100 percent healthy. He's a free agent and stands to strike a big deal if he doesn't re-sign with Buffalo. Playing at anything less than 100 percent won't help Greer or the Bills, who would like to give rookie Leodis McKelvin the starting reps these last two games now that they've been eliminated from the playoffs. "Of course you'd like to play," said Greer, who practiced on Tuesday on a limited basis. "I was talking to a lot of guys in the locker room, and they all know I want to be out there with them. If I can go, I will. (But) these are our jobs and to be successful you have to be healthy. If you're not 100 percent when out there and you get exposed, people don't want to hear you were banged up. They want results."
--The Bills, who won't make the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season, the longest drought in team history, have been taking a lot of criticism. Bring it on, said veteran LB Kawika Mitchell, a member of last season's Super Bowl winning New York Giants. "People are going to say what they want to say," Mitchell said. "We deserve it. We're not winning. We're not doing what we're supposed to do. Say what you want to say until we prove you different."
--In Denver, the Bills face a Broncos team that can clinch their 11th AFC West title and 18th playoff berth in team history with a win. Denver has rebounded from a mid-season three-game losing streak to win four of its last six games but is coming off a 30-10 loss at Carolina. Coach Mike Shanahan, who can pass Bills Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy (154 wins) for 15th place on the NFL's career victory list, is rebuilding while winning. Denver has played 12 rookies on a regular basis, representing 50 starts and 135 total games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Yards rookie Leodis McKelvin needs to break Terrence McGee's club record for most kickoff return yards in a season. McGee gained 1,381 yards in 2005.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "What we need to do as a team is learn from week to week, from the wins and from the losses. Not get too high and not get too low. At times we might have gotten too high after those big wins earlier in the season and we might have gotten too low after some of the tough losses later in the season. We need to learn and apply that to each game." -- QB Trent Edwards, reflecting on why the Bills crashed and burned after a 5-1 start.
Strategy and Personnel
LT Jason Peters' repeat selection to the Pro Bowl should make him a lock for a new rich contract extension. Or does it?Asked what a second trip to Hawaii means to his ongoing talks with the team, Peters said, "I'm not sure. I'm just letting it play out. If not, I don't know what's going to happen."
With three years remaining on Peters' deal, Buffalo's front office refused to give into his pay demands last summer. But now that Peters has shaved another year off that deal, and the fact that young Pro Bowl left tackles don't grow on trees, the Bills are apt to do the right thing and make him their highest-paid offensive lineman. Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker earn more and they aren't in Peters' league.
Earning the nod as the AFC's left tackle starter marks an impressive comeback for Peters, who was coming off a sports hernia injury, missed all of training camp and sat out the season's first game. He didn't round into form until Game 5, he felt. While victimized for several key sacks this year, he has triggered a resurgent run game and most insiders feel he's a dominating talent deserving of a pay raise.
"I'm going back to Hawaii," Peters said. "I mean, what can you say? They just don't put you over there. You've got to be playing some kind of football."
--QB Trent Edwards, who has missed two games with a groin injury, was back in a starter's role at practice and is on track to play Sunday at Denver. Edwards took all repetitions with the first team and was running well.
--RB Marshawn Lynch sat out practice with sore shoulder. He should be fine for Sunday.
--FB Corey McIntyre was excused for personal reasons but is expected back Thursday.
--LT Jason Peters is the team's lone selection to the Pro Bowl. It's his second consecutive nod and an impressive comeback given a hernia injury, his contract holdout and slow start to the season. Peters sat out practice Tuesday with a sore knee but will be fine for Sunday's game at Denver.
--CB Jabari Greer, who has missed four starts, practiced on a limited basis again. With the team's elimination from the playoff race, he won't take the field in the final two games unless completely 100 percent.
--LB Keith Ellison, one of the team's more versatile athletes, gained 6 yards on a fake punt rush last Sunday against the Jets, converting a first down. It was his first career NFL rush.
GAME PLAN: The Bills (6-8), eliminated from playoff contention last week, can play the role of the spoiler against the Broncos (8-6), who can clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie. Buffalo's 23rd-ranked offense, which will get a lift from the return of QB Trent Edwards from a groin injury, should have no problem moving the ball against Denver's 28th-ranked defense that has missed a healthy CB Champ Bailey (groin). The Broncos yield 140.1 yards rushing per game so plenty of touches for RB Marshawn Lynch, who has averaged 98.8 yards rushing in his last five starts, is in order, particularly on the road. The real question is how well Buffalo's No. 13 defense can hold up against Denver's explosive No. 2 offense, averaging 385 yards and 23 points per game. Despite a myriad of injuries at running back, third-year QB Jay Cutler has enjoyed a Pro Bowl campaign. He threw for 304 yards in Denver's 15-14 win over the Bills last season in Orchard Park. The Bills need to get pressure on him, but Denver's offensive line is once against among the league's best. Cutler has been sacked just 10 times and the Broncos are still averaging 4.2 yards per rush. The Bills will need a big play or two in the kicking game and should be able to exploit Denver's weak coverage units.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills DE Ryan Denney, leader of a pass rush with just 22 sacks, vs. Broncos rookie LT Ryan Clady, who has allowed a half-sack in 14 starts.
--Bills CBs Terrence McGee and rookie Leodis McKelvin vs. Broncos talented WR duo of Brandon Marshall and rookie Eddie Royal, who have combined for 113 catches. Marshall was named to the Pro Bowl this week.
--Bills OTs Jason Peters, named to his second Pro Bowl, and Langston Walker vs. Broncos DEs Ebenezer Ekuban and Elvis Dumervil, who have combined for nine sacks.
--Bills punt and kickoff return units, led by Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin, which rank 1 and 3 in the NFL, respectively, vs. Broncos coverage units, which rank 28 and 27.
INJURY IMPACT: The loss of WR James Hardy to a season-ending knee injury will mean even more playing time for fellow rookie Steve Johnson, who had been cutting into Hardy's repetitions anyway. The 6-2 Johnson is Buffalo's biggest receiver next to Hardy (6-5), and the team needs his size for matchup advantages paired with 5-10 starters Lee Evans and Josh Reed. Johnson has nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.