ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)During a season in which the Buffalo Bills have become exceptionally adept at overcoming adversity on an almost weekly basis, news of Von Miller having season-ending knee surgery was accepted mostly in stride.
As much as the Bills acknowledged missing the leadership and pass-rush presence Miller provides, their focus quickly shifted to the next task at hand: hosting the New York Jets on Sunday.
”Von would be the first one to tell you that it’s part of the game,” safety Jordan Poyer said on Wednesday. ”Take care of what you’ve got to take care of. Ain’t no point in sulking in it. Ain’t no point in ‘Woe is me.’ It happens. Accept it.”
From a rash of injuries testing the depth of the entire roster, to a major snowstorm that forced the Bills to play – and win – three consecutive games away from home over a 12-day span, no obstacle so far has led the team to waver from a ”Don’t Blink” mantra, which just happened to be introduced by Miller himself.
The Bills (9-3) have scrambled back to the top of the AFC standings and face the same upstart Jets (7-5), who knocked Buffalo out of first place with a 20-17 win five weeks ago.
”Everything that we want to do is still out in front of us, and that’s been our mindset,” quarterback Josh Allen said, in noting how some were ready to write off the Bills when they followed the loss to the Jets with a 33-30 overtime defeat to Minnesota. ”I think anybody that gets their backs against the wall and are confident in themselves will see that it’s a position we’re OK being in.”
Left tackle Duane Brown and the Jets aren’t taking the Bills for granted, while at the same time motivated to rekindle a late-season playoff push after dropping three of their past five.
”It’s a huge, huge game,” Brown said. ”We got the better end of it last time we played them. We expect it to be a really, really, really tough game in a great atmosphere.”
The Jets were written off once already following a 24-9 season-opening loss to Baltimore.
They’ve rallied behind the faith second-year coach Robert Saleh placed in the team by questioning doubters following the loss to Baltimore, and a stingy defense to win seven of their first 12 games for the first time since 2011.
New York’s hopes on qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2010 now hinge on whatever spark quarterback Mike White can provide an offense since Zach Wilson was benched three weeks ago.
White has topped 300 yards passing and the Jets topped 450 yards of offense in each of his two starts. The second-year player will face Buffalo for the second time, and a little more than a year after he threw four interceptions in a 45-17 loss.
”I’m sure there’s a lot of things that he learned from even in that moment just to take his game forward,” Saleh said. ”It was one of those games that kind of snowballed on the entire team, not just him.”
The Jets having been getting into the red zone all season, just not consistently into the end zone.
After scoring a touchdown just once in six tries inside Minnesota’s 20-yard line last week, New York ranks 26th in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 48.6% (18 for 37). The Jets are 2 for 9 in their past three games.
”It starts with me. You’ve got to figure out how to put the ball in the end zone,” White said. ”And if we can do that, you can win games.”
DEAD ZONE II
The Bills scored TDs on each of their three drives inside the New England 20 in a 24-10 win on Dec. 1. That followed a seven-game stretch in which Buffalo combined to score just 14 TDs and seven field goals on 29 red zone drives, while turning the ball over six times (four interceptions and two lost fumbles).
HOME SWEET HOME
The Bills will play their first game at Orchard Park, New York, for the first time since losing to Minnesota on Nov. 13. Buffalo’s home game the following week against Cleveland was shifted to Detroit because of a lake-effect storm that dumped 7 feet on some parts of the Buffalo region.
”You’re always excited to get a chance to play in front of your home fans, and even moreso after what we’ve experienced over the last three weeks,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.
BIG MAN SHUFFLE
George Fant is in line to be the Jets’ fourth starter this season at right tackle, joining Max Mitchell, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Cedric Ogbuehi.
Fant was supposed to open the season on the right side, but instead started the first three games at left tackle when Brown opened the season on injured reserve. Fant spent eight weeks on IR and returned last Sunday, and replaced Mitchell, who was placed on the season-ending non-football injury list this week.
If Fant starts at right tackle, it would mark the Jets’ seventh different starting line combination in 13 games.
AP Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed.
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