JETS-BILLS PREVIEW: The finale about nothing

A preseason game in January.

Following a 31-yard field goal in overtime by Washington Redskins kicker Graham Gano last week, that’s what the Jets have set up for themselves Sunday in their regular season finale against the Buffalo Bills.

Rookie Joe McKnight could see some serious action in Sunday's playoff dress-rehearsal against Buffalo. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

With a playoff spot already locked up, what exactly does Gang Green have to play for?  According to their head coach, a whole lot.

“We’re going out there to try and win the game, first off,” said Rex Ryan Friday.  ”Is it a kick start to the playoffs?  I guess it is the last game we play, so you’re trying to go out there and get some things done.  Will we do some things that maybe we haven’t done? Yes, absolutely.”

Coming off losses in three of their last four games, there is definitely some work to be done for the 10-5 Jets. A win Sunday would restore some mojo to a team that will seemingly limp into the playoffs. Both literally and figuratively.

“There’s only one way to play the game,” said Ryan.  ”And that’s to go full tilt.  If you don’t, that’s when injuries do happen.  You have to be playing at that kind of tempo.  You’re a professional.  We want to win this game.”

Being professional is one thing.  Putting your star players at risk with a playoff run in sight, is quite another.  Mark Sanchez is likely to have his playing time severely limited Sunday with backups Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens getting the majority of the reps.  Meanwhile starting corners Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and Antonio Cromartie (groin) have been listed as questionable for Sunday, with a good chance that they both will not suit up.

Another Jet who is likely to see his workload lessened immensely against Buffalo is running back LaDainian Tomlinson.  Tomlinson, who comes into Sunday needing only 86 yards to become only the fifth running back in NFL history to record nine 1,000-yard seasons, likely will not get the chance to do so.  It’s possible that Tomlinson could be held out of the entire game with rookie Joe McKnight taking the bulk of the carries.

Despite the uncertainty of playing time for himself and many of his teammates Sunday, the 31-year-old back agrees with his head coach that closing out the regular season should count for something.

“You definitely want to end (the season) on a good note,” said Tomlinson, earlier this week.  ”You want to be, as we talked about all year long, playing our best football at this time, so you want the momentum of winning the game and also, it’s a dress rehearsal to make sure you’re covering everything you need to do at this time to be ready to go for next week.”

Regardless of who exactly steps out onto the field for Gang Green Sunday, a win is definitely attainable.  It’s been another long, dreary campaign for the 4-11 Bills, making Chan Gailey’s first season in Buffalo a forgetful one.

While the Bills record is not truly indicative of how competitive they’ve been in the second half of the season, they certainly have some major flaws.  The key to Buffalo’s undoing this season has been a severe inability to stop the run, as the Bills rank dead last in the NFL in rush defense, yielding a whopping 162.5 yards on the ground per game.

However, Sunday’s finale in the Meadowlands does hold some serious clout for Buffalo.  But obviously it has nothing to do with the postseason.

The Bills enter Sunday’s game against the Jets, currently in the No.4 slot for April’s draft.  Depending on the league-wide outcomes of Week 17, Buffalo could finish as high as the second pick, or as low as the ninth.

PREDICTION: With the backups in, this one could get ugly. But then again, this Jet offense has been inept basically all season. The offense will struggle to score once again, even against the porous Buffalo defense. However, with the possibility of Fitzpatrick sitting this one out, the Jet defense will feast on Bills third-year backup quarterback Brian Brohm. At least three forced turnovers for the defense, two for scores. JETS 20, Buffalo 3

INSIDER TIDBITS

Matchup history

Sunday marks the 99th meeting between the two clubs with Buffalo holding a 53-46 series advantage.  However, the Jets have had the Bills’ number as of late, posting wins in four of the last five meetings.  Gang Green is coming off a Week 4 shellacking of the Bills up at Ralph Wilson Stadium in which the Jets dominated possession of the football for over 40 minutes en route to a 38-14 victory.

Goin’ for 11

A win against Buffalo Sunday will give New York their eleventh win of the season for the first time since Bill Parcells’ squad did it in 1998.  It will also mark only the fourth time in franchise history that the Jets have surpassed 10 wins in a season.  Furthermore, 11 wins would add up to 29 combined wins for the Jets since 2008.  This would tie the 1967-69 Jets for most wins by the club in a three-year span.

Injury Report

Safety James Ihedigbo (ankle/knee) and right tackle Damien Woody are out for the Jets.  Safety Eric Smith (concussion) is listed as doubtful.  As mentioned earlier, cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie (groin) and Darrelle Revis (hamstring) are questionable along with defensive end Shaun Ellis (back), defensive tackle Sione Pouha (back), and defensive end Trevor Pryce (hip).  Listed as probable are wideouts Santonio Holmes (quad) and Brad Smith (hand), quarterback Mark Sanchez (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (shoulder), guard Matt Slauson (illness), and linebacker Bryan Thomas (ankle).

For Buffalo, guard Cord Howard (shoulder) is out along with wide receivers Donal Jones (head) and David Nelson (ribs).  Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee) is questionable.  Listed as probable are linebackers Mike Balogun (illness) and Chris Kelsay (knee), defensive tackles Torell Troup (back) and Kyle Williams (hip), cornerback Terrence McGhee (head), safety Jon Corto (illness) and offensive tackle Demetrius Bell (knee).

Broadcast Info: Sunday, 1:00 P.M. ET, TV: CBS (Gus Johnson/Steve Tasker) Radio: 1050 AM ESPN Radio (Bob Wischusen/Marty Lyons)

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