ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Before the season began, many had circled Sunday's regular-season finale between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets as a game with possible playoff implications. With the addition of coveted free agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills figured to be much improved, and many believed the Jets would bounce back from a season in which they missed the playoffs after consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game under coach Rex Ryan.
So much for expectations.
Instead of a battle for a postseason berth, the finale at half-filled Ralph Wilson Stadium wound up being a matchup of AFC East underachievers - the Irrelevancy Bowl, joked some.
Thanks to big plays by running back C.J. Spiller, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and linebacker Bryan Scott, the Bills emerged victorious 28-9.
Despite the outcome, which gave both teams 6-10 records, Buffalo finished in the division basement for a fifth consecutive season. It was just the 16th victory in 48 games for Chan Gailey, whose future is in doubt after his third season of double-digit losses in as many seasons as Bills head coach.
Asked whether he had spoken to Bills owner Ralph Wilson about his future, Gailey said, "Let's talk about today and let's talk about tomorrow or next week at a later date."
The outcome also further clouded quarterback Mark Sanchez's future with the Jets. Back in the starting lineup after being benched the week before, Sanchez completed 17 of 35 passes for 204 yards. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and fumbled twice, losing one. His passer rating was 55.1.
"The future is going to be addressed at a different time,'' Ryan said, when asked about Sanchez and an ESPN report that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano would not be back. "Right now, we're just coming off a terrible defeat. The future will be discussed at a different time."
Sanchez said he hopes to return.
"This is where is all started for me; this is where we've had a bunch of fun playing a ton of games, almost 40 wins for Rex and I,'' he said, after finishing his season with just 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. "We know we can be successful here, so, hopefully, things work out. If not, I just can't speculate. We'll see."
And does he view himself as part of the solution?
"I mean I'm contracted to be here,'' he said. "I want to be here. That's all I've known is a Jets uniform. I plan on playing here forever. So who knows?"
Spiller, who rushed for 169 yards in the first meeting between the teams, found the going tougher this time, but the Bills third-year running back still managed 131 yards (59 rushing and 72 receiving) and a touchdown. It was the 10th time this season Spiller surpassed 100 yards, the most times by a Bills running back since Thurman Thomas in 1991. Stevie Johnson chipped in with 111 yards on six catches, and extended his Bills' record to three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Linebacker Bryan Scott returned a Sanchez interception 20 yards for a touchdown. And Marcell Dareus blocked a field goal attempt as the Bills turned in one of their best all-around games of the year.
"Any time you can win a game it definitely gives you some confidence going into the offseason,'' said Spiller, who finished the season with 1,244 yards rushing, 459 receiving and eight touchdowns. "So, it was great to be able to come out and get the win the way we did today."
Nick Folk accounted for all the Jets points, booting three field goals.
Jets running back Shonn Greene gained 74 yards on 19 carries and surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second consecutive season. Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley had three catches for 88 yards.
Folk's 47-yard field goal gave the Jets a 3-0 lead six minutes into the game. The score was set up by Greene, who had 26 yards on five carries during the opening drive.
After a Bills punt, Sanchez threw into triple coverage in the flat and was intercepted by linebacker Bryan Scott, who returned the ball 20 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 7-3 lead with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
The Jets cut the lead to one on Folk's 23-yard field goal with 10:54 left in the half. Alex Carrington of the Bills got his hand on the ball, but the kick fluttered over the goal post.
New York took a 9-7 lead on Folk's third field goal, a 28-yarder with 3:49 to go in the half.
On Buffalo's next series, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a slant pass to Spiller, who sprinted 66 yards down the middle of the field for the touchdown that put the Bills up 14-13.
The Jets squandered a golden opportunity to regain the lead early in the third quarter after Spiller was stripped of the ball by tackle Mike DeVito and it was recovered by safety Yeremiah Bell at the Bills' 20. New York was unable to move the ball, and Folk's 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Dareus.
Buffalo failed to pad its lead later in the third when Rian Lindell missed field goal attempts from 50 and 46 yards.
The Bills increased their lead to 21-9 on a four-yard run up the middle by wildcat quarterback Brad Smith with 10:52 to go. The key play during the drive was a 37-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Johnson.
Buffalo closed out the scoring on Tashard Choice's 13-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left in the game.
Fitzpatrick was 12 for 26 for 225 yards and one touchdown in what may have been his last start in Buffalo. He has a 19-31 record as a starter with the Bills and a 23-41-1 record overall.
NOTES: The Bills affixed "WWFD" decals on their helmets in honor of the two West Webster, N.Y., firefighters - Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka - who were murdered while responding to a fire on December 24. Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler visited two other West Webster firefighters -- Joe Hofstetter and Ted Scardino -- who were wounded and are recuperating at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester on Friday . . . The Jets won the first meeting between the teams, 48-28, and had won eight of the previous nine games in the series . . . Midway through the third quarter, many in the announced crowd of 54,533 mockingly began chanting "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" in hopes Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow would replace Sanchez.