Jets take circus to Buffalo

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Updated: December 28, 2012

Now that the finish line on a debacle of a season is in sight, it seems the New York state of mind for a handful of individuals might be just about done, too.

In fact, the conversation surrounding the New York Jets on the eve of a
schedule-closing trip to Buffalo hasn’t at all focused on the Bills. Instead,
it’s revolved around whether quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow — along
with embattled coach Rex Ryan — will be taking their last official trips in
green and white.

Ryan, who arrived in 2009 with Super Bowl guarantees and established early
street cred with consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, has seen his
aura diminish after a dissension-sopped 8-8 finish to 2011 and a circus-like
2012 that’s yielded only six wins in 15 games.

In fact, since the Jets started last season at 8-5, they are just 6-12.

The most recent loss came last week against visiting San Diego in a game
preceded by the elevation of third-string quarterback Greg McElroy to starter,
leaving the aforementioned Sanchez and Tebow in limbo heading toward 2013.

Both are under contract with the Jets for next season, but neither is a lock
to return. Tebow is expected to be gone shortly after Sunday’s finale — via
release or trade — after a season in which his anticipated deployment in the
team’s Wildcat offensive package never materialized.

Multiple reports indicated he begged out of the game plan against the Chargers
after hearing he’d not be the one to replace Sanchez, but the former
University of Florida star — who’s thrown eight passes and run the ball 32
times as a Jet — disputed that version this week.

“I never said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do anything or I won’t do anything,'”
Tebow said. “That wasn’t the talk at all. (Coach Ryan) knows that, and
everybody on this team knows that. I’d never not do something if I was asked,
and I think that’s what’s disappointing about the whole situation, people
saying, ‘You quit,’ or, ‘You didn’t do this.’ It was not it at all.”

Ryan was lukewarm is his own denials, which came on the heels of his decision
to bench Sanchez after the former fifth overall draft pick threw four
interceptions and fumbled once in a Monday night loss to Tennessee that
officially eliminated New York from playoff contention.

McElroy, a seventh-round draft choice in 2011, made his starting debut against
the Chargers and was under constant duress. He was sacked 11 times — the most
the Jets allowed since replacement player David Norris was dropped 11 times by
the Dallas Cowboys during the 1987 players strike.

While standing, McElroy completed 14-of-24 passes, was intercepted once and
fumbled once. He also sustained a minor abdominal injury, but was not held out
of any subsequent practices.

“It’s a little sore, but that’s to be expected,” he said. “It’s to be expected
having played my first full game in a few years. It’s nothing out of the
ordinary.”

That all changed on Thursday when Ryan reversed course again, revealing
McElroy has a concussion and inserting Sanchez as the starter one more time.

Meanwhile, speaking of imminent departures, the Bills may have a few of their
own.

Third-year coach Chan Gailey’s status is tenuous at best at the tail end of
the franchise’s fourth straight season with at least 10 losses. The
Gainesville, Ga. native lasted two seasons in his previous NFL head coaching
job, going 18-14 with Dallas in 1998-99.

He’s 15-32 with the Bills after going 4-12 and 6-10 in his first two seasons,
and is under contract for one more year. Buffalo lost, 24-10, last weekend in
Miami.

“I’m not into (discussing my situation) right now,” Gailey said. “I’m into
let’s beat the Jets and finish this thing the way it needs to be finished.”

Also in question is the long-term tenure of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who
won just once after a 5-2 start last season and has continued inconsistently
in 2012. Buffalo has just 13 touchdowns on offense in its last eight games,
during which the QB has thrown seven interceptions to eight TDs.

The Bills’ front office has not been shy about expressing a desire to draft a
quarterback in April.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t wear on me a little bit,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We haven’t met (our goals). And I haven’t met them. And so it’s been
disappointing, but that stuff doesn’t affect the way that I play on Sunday.”

He’ll be without favorite target Scott Chandler this week after the tight end
— whose six TD catches share the team lead — injured a knee ligament last
week and was placed on injured reserve. That ups the ante on running back C.J.
Spiller, who’ll face a New York defense likely to be missing tackle Muhammad
Wilkerson (concussion).

Spiller, who split time with Fred Jackson earlier in the season, has 241
yards, a touchdown and a 6.2-yard average per carry since Jackson was shelved
earlier this month.

The Bills hold a 53-50 edge in the all-time series, but the Jets have won six
straight and eight of the last nine, including a 20-point rout in the 2012
season-opener in New Jersey. Buffalo’s Gailey is winless in six career games
against the Jets, while Ryan has won six of seven against Buffalo since
arriving in 2009.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

If the Jets had questions heading into last week about what McElroy could do
at the helm, they probably still have them this week after he was constantly
harassed against San Diego.

In order to keep him vertical a little more often, it would figure that
offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s approach would trend toward ground-heavy
against a team that’s been the league’s worst at defending the run, allowing
146.7 yards per week through 15 games.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Jets, to say the least, are in disarray. And a road trip to a snow-belted
foe for a meaningless Week 17 game doesn’t figure to enhance the emotions of a
beaten-down team. With that the case, it’d make more sense to assume Spiller
will get his yards and the Bills defense will do enough to keep McElroy and
Co. from making another mockery of the scoreboard.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Bills 20, Jets 14