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Jets Set to Weather the Bills and Their Crowd


Typically the September weather in Buffalo is mild. Too early for lake-effect snow off Lake Erie, Western New York is actually a very comfortable place once fall begins. And the Jets have found some September comfort in Buffalo, owning a 6-1 record the last seven times they have faced each the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the ninth month of the year.

Last season, the Jets visited Buffalo in September and came away with an eight-point victory. Leon Washington, a rookie who totaled 77 offensive yards that day, remembers the trip to suburban Orchard Park.

"I know when we got to the stadium, I didn't see much of anything around," he said. "I just figured that everybody looks forward to football on Sunday. That says a lot. They are going to fill that stadium up and they are going to be there for their home team regardless of their record."

The diehard Bills fans got on Washington and a few of his teammates for mishandling balls in the 30-mph winds before the game even started.

"We were dropping a couple of kicks in the warmups with the wind howling and they just loved that," he said. "They're going to be into it this year, and I remember how much they were into it and the elements of the game."

Unless the forecast shifts dramatically over the next couple of hours, the Jets won't have to deal with many elements this afternoon. They're saying it's going to be in the low 70s with mostly sunny skies.

"I'd be lying if I'd say I'd rather play up in Buffalo in December," said K Mike Nugent, who calls the Ralph the windiest pro stadium he's played in. "It is always good to be playing the really cold-weather teams in as warm weather as possible and going to Miami late instead of playing them early at their place."

"The hotter it is, the better I like," said Washington, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "Yes, I'm glad we are going up there in September instead of November or December."

Sean Ryan attended many Bills games during his adolescence. The Buffalo native and St. Joseph's High School alum used to go to one or two a year with his father.

"The first thing I remember is right at the opening kickoff, and at every kickoff, when they do the thundering buffalo and get the herd going," Ryan said. "It's probably one of the biggest crowds in the NFL — 80,000 people and just loud, passionate fans. I was one of them, jumping up and down and screaming my head off, you know, for Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and guys out there running the K-Gun. It was fun, all good memories."

The Jets' win at Buffalo last year broke a three-game road losing streak in the series. Even after watching their team fall behind, the hometown fans never let up.

"There were three or four Jets fans behind our bench and we couldn't hear them until the game was over," Ryan said. "They had been sitting there the whole game but obviously they were drowned out."

The older stadium, which opened in 1973, has seating close to the benches, and the higher you go, the further you move away from the field.

"The newer stadiums they try to build right on top, so even in the upper deck you're sitting right on the field," Ryan said. "But whatever they're doing acoustic-wise, when that crowd gets loud, you can't hear anything. They are very passionate fans."

As a starter, Chad Pennington has won just once at Buffalo. He was a master of efficiency last fall, didn't play in '05 due to injury, was knocked out of the '04 contest, and the Jets scored only 6 points four seasons ago.

"When you face a good pass-rush team, I think that's one of their advantages of playing at home," Pennington said. "That crowd eliminates some of the snap counts that you can use and some of the cadences that you can use to your advantage."

Nobody will ever argue that Buffalo is a tough place to play. The Jets have lost there on 27 occasions and won 19 times. But they won there last year, have split the past 10 and they've been dominant recently there in September.

On what promises to be a calm fall afternoon, the Jets hope to sneak out of Buffalo with another important early-season victory.

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