Buffalo (5-7) at New York (7-5)

Fair Currently: East Rutherford, NJ
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  • Game info: 4:15 pm EST Sun Dec 10, 2006
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Playing some of their best football of the season, the New York Jets continue their push for a playoff berth Sunday when they host the Buffalo Bills in a matchup between AFC East teams.

The Jets are one of five teams in the conference entering this weekend with a 7-5 record, and sit two games behind New England in the East. While first-year coach Eric Mangini has already exceeded expectations for this team simply by having it contend for a postseason spot, he refuses to allow himself to get caught up in the Jets’ success.

“We’re excited about the progress we’re making, but there’s still a quarter of the season left and that’s the way we’re approaching it,” Mangini said Monday. “I appreciate the excitement, I appreciate the fans’ excitement—I think that’s great.

“But if we lose track of the next game and get caught up in the other things that are happening, then that’s when you let a game slip away.”

The Jets have good reason to be excited after a 38-10 rout at Green Bay last Sunday gave them two straight wins and victories in five of their last seven games. New York scored on all five of its first-half possessions en route to a 31-0 halftime lead and rolled up a season-high 441 total yards.

Chad Pennington threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, completing at least one pass to eight receivers.

“I think the guys did an excellent job,” receiver Laveranues Coles said. “The wide receivers made a lot of plays and, I mean, the numbers show that you had a lot of guys making plays: the wide receivers, the tight ends—all that stuff.”

Mangini said one of the reasons the Jets have been so successful offensively the past two weeks has been the decision-making of Pennington, who has completed 74.2 percent (49-of-66) of his passes for 549 yards and three touchdowns over that span.

“Chad’s capacity for information is very high, so that helps too because you don’t have to come up with the same thing multiple times to get it right,” Mangini said. “He has that ability, that presence on the field to direct traffic and when traffic is not exactly flowing the way you’d like it to, to be able to settle everything down and go.”

Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have combined for 28 receptions, 348 yards and two TDs in the last two games.

Buffalo (5-7) enters needing a win to strengthen its fading playoff hopes after a 24-21 home loss to San Diego last week. The Bills scored two third-quarter touchdowns to nearly erase a 17-0 deficit, but failed to get a key defensive stop in the fourth quarter as the Chargers marched 80 yards on a touchdown drive that consumed more than eight minutes.

“We’re just not there yet,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We don’t make enough plays to beat the elite teams. We haven’t done that yet. Today was an example.”

Fletcher is going to be under more pressure than normal this week as the Bills try to replace weak side linebacker Angelo Crowell, who suffered a broken leg in last Sunday’s loss and will miss the rest of the season. Crowell, who was in his first full year as a starter, is second on the team behind Fletcher with 83 tackles.

“It’s tough for him and tough for us,” coach Dick Jauron said. “He was playing well and getting more and more comfortable in the scheme. It’s a tough one and very disappointing.”

Coy Wire, who plays primarily on special teams, likely will start in Crowell’s spot.

“I had an incredible sense of comfort and confidence and even a sense a peace about it when I was out there,” said Wire, who has started just five games the past four years after starting 15 as a rookie in 2002. “Obviously, it’s a big loss for our defense. Angelo’s one of our best players. I’m going to take all I can do to fill his shoes the best as I can.”

Pennington threw for 183 yards and a touchdown, and Victor Hobson returned a fumble 32 yards for a score as the Jets posted a 28-20 win at Buffalo on Sept. 24. New York, which has won four straight home games against the Bills, has not swept its division rivals since 2002.

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