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Sanchez vs. Buffalo? Ryan Rethinks the Plan

Upon further review, Rex Ryan has some different thoughts about Mark Sanchez's availability for Buffalo on Sunday.

Specifically, Ryan is recalibrating his plan, expressed immediately after Sunday's 38-34 loss to the Bears, about how he might play Sanchez and his other starters for the Bills in the regular-season finale at New Meadowlands Stadium.

"My first thinking was 'Hey, good, we'll just rest him.' Now I'm not sure," Ryan told Jets reporters on a conference call from the team's Chicago hotel, where the team is still awaiting  the all-clear to board a flight back to Newark. "I don't know if that's best for him. We're going to weigh it as the week goes on.

"I want to win this game. I just think it can really help us, winning 11 games would be an outstanding regular season for us. But of course it's a fine line. If the guy's injured, we're not going to play him."

Ryan said his understanding is that Sanchez, who's received treatment at the Jets' Chicago hotel for his sore right shoulder, "came out well" from the game healthwise. And he said he's considering all his options, including starting Sanchez but not playing him the entire game against the Bills — "that's definitely a thought."

As for other players, he said "it's safe to say" that James Ihedigbo, who reinjured his knee Sunday, won't play the Bills. But others who've been missing recently, such as safety Eric Smith and tackle Damien Woody, could be cleared to play vs. Buffalo.

The coach is rethinking the plan because he wants Sanchez and the O to stay hot and the D to get as hot as he knows it can get. After struggling at New England and at home against Miami, the young QB and his unit picked up some speed against the Steelers' and Bears' top defenses.

"I will say this: I'm excited about where our offense is at right now," Ryan said. "I think we've played against two outstanding defensive football teams and we've really looked good on offense. I think we're peaking at the right time."

The Jets' defense is another matter. But Ryan sees a connection between the concentration on fundamentals for Sanchez a few weeks back and what he plans for his D the rest of this week and on toward the postseason.

"I don't want to diminish what Chicago accomplished because they made some plays, but we've got to get back, no excuses for it. We've got to get back to an emphasis on our defense this week in practice, going back to individual drills, fundamental drills, really honing in on that. It's kind of unusual at this time of year but we really need to because that's how we're going to get better."

Ryan stressed this New Year's Eve week refresher course isn't just for the secondary, which gave up three long-distance, rapid-fire touchdown strikes to the Bears in the third quarter.

"Really, it's all three levels. The back end is the one you recognize the most," he said. "But all three levels have got to get better. The running game, knocking your blocker back, getting off blocks, things that are day one of training camp. We've slipped the past several weeks. We're not as good as we need to be."

And the coach thinks his still top-10 but inconsistent defense can raise its level to a postseason caliber.

"That's where we at, what we're gunning for — to have that kind of team that can go get it done in the playoffs," Ryan said. "It's no easy task when you've got three games on the road just to make it to the Super Bowl. That's only been done, I believe, twice, so we know it's stacked against us, but we're gunning for it. There's no reason we shouldn't be.

"I can't say enough about our offense and the way it's been progressing the last couple of weeks. We get our defense back, we're going to be tough."

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