Only one of the four teams in the AFC East would need some sort of divine intervention to make the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills, who are set to pay the Jets a visit Sunday and will miss the postseason for the ninth consecutive season, know they only have three games to play before cleaning their lockers.
"We went through a string where we turned the ball over so much and we're not getting any takeaways," said Bills head coach Dick Jauron during a conference call with New York reporters today. "We were losing that takeaway/giveaway ratio by a good margin. When that happens, you lose a lot of games in our league."
The Bills' minus-7 turnover margin ranks 25th in the league. After starting the season 5-1, the they have lost six of their past seven games. Following a 54-point outburst against the Chiefs on Nov. 23, Buffalo managed just a field goal in losses to San Francisco and Miami.
"It's a tough situation for us right now," said QB J.P. Losman. "We just have to find out what kind of character guys we have ... and end on a positive note."
While Jauron has not named Losman his starter for Sunday's game, it appears likely the Bills' backup will be in command of the offense against the Green & White. Trent Edwards, who did not play against the Dolphins, has a groin injury and did not practice today.
"He will take more chances downfield than Trent Edwards will," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "Edwards has a higher completion percentage [66 percent to 60], but Losman can beat you with the big play. He can get out of the pocket and make plays and throw the ball down the field. He has a big arm — a very big arm."
Lee Evans, recently rewarded with a large contract, has always been a favorite target of Losman's. Evans is averaging 17.6 yards a reception, but corner Darrelle Revis and the Jets' secondary held him to just four catches for 41 yards in the teams' first meeting.
"You have to be aware of where he is and you know he can get down the field," Rhodes said. "Awareness, No. 1, and when you play him, he is one of the fastest guys in the league so you can't really squat him. You have to be more high to low against him, so that's probably the biggest thing."
When the Jets topped the Bills, 26-17, back on Nov. 2, nose tackle Kris Jenkins manhandled the Buffalo O-line. He was a constant in the backfield, shedding blocks, disrupting the run and picking up 1.5 sacks and four QB hits on Edwards.
"That is a universal problem with Kris Jenkins in terms of the league in general. Nose tackles of that size and that ability give everybody problems," Jauron said. "We struggled some up front, we've played inconsistently. But in his case I wouldn't just say he's giving us problems, that's for sure."
The Bills did not have top runner Marshawn Lynch for much of the contest as Lynch was bothered by an upset stomach.
"He's running as good as any running back in the league right now," Jenkins said today.
Lynch, who has seven rush TDs and is 125 yards short of 1,000, broke his media silence this week and pointed at himself for Bills problems in the run game. He's averaged just 4.0 yards a carry but has also pitched in with 44 receptions.
"I know you've all been looking and wondering what's up with the run game and I'm here to tell you today I'm going to put it on me," Lynch told reporters. "I'm the feature back here and I don't feel, as the feature back, I've played like it."
Defensively, the Bills have missed DE Aaron Schobel tremendously and he may soon find a spot on injured reserve. But they're only yielding 21.2 points a game and have held six opponents to 16 points or fewer.
"You play through some highs and, in our case, a lot of lows recently, in the Jets case just a few of them," Jauron said. "They're still right at the top and they're playing at a level that we're going to have to elevate our game tremendously to stay in the game with them."
And so the Bills, in the role of spoiler, are in familiar territory. They haven't made the playoffs since 1999 and their fans are tired of seeing that familiar Home Run Throwback replay from their last trip to the dance. But they've won their past two outings at the Meadowlands and promise they'll play with pride.
"I'm excited to play. I want to play well for my teammates," said Losman, who probably will be at another address next season. "We're down to three games, we have a three-game season.
"Regardless if we've been successful against these guys in the past, that's irrelevant at this point in time. We'll want to go up there and put a good showing on to show our fans what kind of people we are and what kind of character guys we have. We want to show ourselves what kind of guys we have."