Amidst all this talk of championship celebrations, playoff and Super Bowl tickets, isn't something being overlooked? Like the New York Jets? The Buffalo Bills, who have roared to a 10-1 record, have moved to the brink of clinching their first division title since 1980 and first playoff berth since 1981. All they have to do is defeat the Jets today (1 p.m., Ch. 2, WBEN) at Rich Stadium. Buffalo is a solid seven-point favorite to defeat the New York team.
If that happens, it probably will set off a wild victory celebration at the stadium, rivaling the delirium following the smash ing of the Miami jinx in the 1980 opener or the romping after an overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams that same year. But will the Jets cooperate? Not likely. Although the Bills have performed like a dominant team in the last month and seem to be getting better each week, get ting by New York may not be as easy as some Buffalo partisans expect. Some are predicting a 20-point -- even a 30-point -- victory. That's wild consid ering the Bills defeated the Miami Dol phins by "only" 25 points last Monday night in a game in which they intercepted three Dan Marino passes, didn't turn the ball over once and had to punt only twice. The history of the AFC East, going back to the AFL years, is dotted with upsets of title-bound teams. A prime ex ample is the upset the woeful Bills (1-13-1) of 1968 pinned on Joe Namath and the Jets when they were on their way to winning Super Bowl III. Also: It has to be remembered the Jets have not lost in Rich Stadium since 1981. Their coach, Joe Walton, has an 8-3 record against Buffalo in his head-coach ing career. The New York lineup includes such Bills nemeses as running back Freeman McNeil (a Jets record 192 yards against the Bills in 1985), wide receiver Wesley Walker (nine career touchdown recep tions against Buffalo) and tight end Mick ey Shuler (five touchdown catches in his last five games against the Bills). The Jets are 3-1 on the road, includ ing a 24-3 upset at Cleveland when the Browns had Gary Danielson at quarter back the second week of the season. They also had a big offensive game in a 44-30 victory at Miami. Picked by most experts to finish in the er Against the Jets division cellar, the Jets come in today with a 5-5-1 record and have almost as good a shot at a wild-card playoff berth as any of the other AFC contenders, with the exception of Houston. "We're focusing on the New York Jets," said Bills coach Marv Levy, who is striving mightily to get his team to put all distractions aside. "We have to play our top game to beat them," said Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. "We have to win every game. We don't want to just make the playoffs, we want to have the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs." To do that, the Bills would have to win er Against the Jets the division and maintain the best won- lost record in the AFC. The Bills handled the Jets, 37-14, in a Monday night game last month at Giants Stadium. History again warns of the dan ger of putting too much stock in that outcome. In 1981, the Bills opened the season with a 31-0 rout of a Jets team that had divisional title aspirations. In the return game at Shea Stadium, the Jets got revenge, 33-14. That's a 50-point swing. Whether there is that much of a con trast between the first Jets game and this one remains to be seen, but Levy points out: "They are a healthier team than the first time we played them." Tight end Shuler and starting outside linebacker Alex Gordon did not play in the first game but are in the lineup now. "Also remember," Levy said, "we hit a bomb early (to Andre Reed) and on the next series got a deflection for another long touchdown pass (to Flip Johnson). That took them out of their run mode and they had to press. "They were a little bit in the same boat we were when we fell behind the Chicago See Bills: Page C-11, Column 1 Bills Continued from Page C-1 Bears quickly." The Bears, of course, scored all their points in the first half and handed the Bills their only loss, 24-3, in Chicago Oct. 2. Buffalo has won six straight since then. The Jets come in after losing their last two games. To shake things up, Walton announced ear lier in the week Pat Ryan will replace Ken O'Brien as the start ing quarterback against Buffalo. Ryan has completed nine of 11 passes in two games of mop-up action against Houston and India napolis. However, he threw for three touchdowns in a 1984 start against the Bills here. "We have to strive for more consistency, especially on offense. We've been struggling lately on of fense," said Walton. "We've been out of sync and we certainly can't afford to turn the ball over when we're within scoring distance." The move to the 33-year-old veteran Ryan doesn't mean the Jets have given up. "There are no funerals around here," Walton said. "It has come down to a five-game season for us. We have to approach these games with a positive attitude. We'll have to get after it, and I have a bunch of guys who like to play. "I don't have to tell our players much about Buffalo. They saw first-hand how good the Bills are on defense and on offense. They have the best record in the NFL and certainly dominated us on both sides of the ball when they beat us on Monday night TV." The one-sided Buffalo victory in the Meadowlands last month didn't convince all the Jets. Rook ie cornerback James Hasty partic ularly was outspoken, especially about the Bills' wide receivers. "I felt they were the worst re ceivers we were gonna face all year," Hasty said. "I didn't think they could do anything to threaten us. I didn't have any respect for them and I still don't." The stats show Buffalo wide re ceivers caught 11 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Reed was 7-132-2. Trumaine Johnson, who started in place of the injured Chris Burkett, was 2-32-0 and Flip Johnson 2-75-1. "We'll be going to Buffalo and I'll be ticked off and I'll let them know when I get there," Hasty vowed. "They tick me off. I'm just thankful we'll be able to travel up there. I'll be on a mission." That mission begins at 1 p.m. today.