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Jets At Bills Preview: An Overview

(Sports Network) - Take heart, Bills fans. It might be for the best.

Just a few years ago, when its football team was consistently among the NFL's elite, the city of Buffalo and its Western New York surroundings were chronically rushing to defend their collective honor.

As Jim Kelly & Co. racked up win after win in regular season after regular season, the analysts, commentators and pundits would inevitably utter a phrase in the back half of those schedules that went a little something like this:

"Folks, the road to the AFC championship goes through Buffalo in January."

And immediately, the damage control would begin.

Next-morning talk shows, afternoon radio DJs and evening anchors of all shape and size would channel the indignant sun-drenched masses, wondering where anyone had gotten the idea that Great Lakes weather in mid-winter is any different than San Diego, San Antonio or Santo Domingo.

It wasn't a pretty sight.

Throw in the fact the Bills remain annually reminded of two of the league's most signature playoff disasters - "Wide Right" in Super Bowl XXV and the "Music City Miracle" in the 2000 wild-card round - and the suffering only rarely subsides.

So perhaps what's happened in September isn't the worst thing after all.

In losing its initial three games of the 2010 season, what the current version of the Buffalo franchise may actually be doing is shielding a weary fan base from three months of further torture.

If familiarity breeds contempt, then anonymity might possibly yield catharsis.

And toward that end, the end of the month on One Bills Drive lately has had an appropriate "they'll never matter again" feel.

Quarterback Trent Edwards, a starter in 34 of 51 games since a third-round selection from Stanford in 2007, was rudely dumped on Monday - going from incumbent to expatriate a day after he watched from the sidelines as Buffalo fell to 0-3 with a 38-30 loss at New England.

Into his stead steps Harvard alum and former seventh-round pick Ryan Fitzpatrick, who'd had exactly 19 starts with two teams prior to signing with the Bills last year and gradually ebbing whatever public support Edwards had maintained.

Most importantly... in the coach's office.

"We're looking for a spark," said first-year boss Chan Gailey, relegating Edwards to the inglorious post-Kelly scrap heap of Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb and J.P. Losman. "We're looking for something that gives us a new look and thought process.

"Those kinds of decisions are never easy. He gave us everything he had. We just felt like we were not going to go back in that direction at the next juncture. Trent did the best he could. He's a great young man, and I wish him the best."

Edwards was immediately claimed on waivers by Jacksonville, where coach Jack Del Rio said it was like getting another draft choice.

Meanwhile, on the other side at Ralph C. Wilson Stadium this week is a QB who's walking the "he's a bum/he's a savior" tightrope in a successful direction lately.

Second-year Jet Mark Sanchez was lambasted when New York covered just 176 yards in an ugly 2010 opener with Baltimore, but he bounced back with six touchdowns and zero interceptions as Gang Green beat New England and Miami in tone-setting Week 2 and 3 divisional games.

The Jets enter Week 4 in a three-way tie with the Patriots and Dolphins atop the AFC East, but hold both early-season tiebreakers and, with a win Sunday, could gain some more ground when those two teams play each other Monday night in South Florida.

"This is who he is," coach Rex Ryan said of Sanchez, who passed for 12 touchdowns with 20 interceptions in an uneven rookie year before leading the team to the AFC Championship Game. "He's having the kind of year we expect."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Somewhere, someone is using the phrase "trap game" in reference to New York coming off two big wins to play an inferior foe on the road. We won't go that route here, though the causes for such a mindset are clear. Still, a new old quarterback and some dynamic trinkets on offense have to face one of the league's perceived-best defenses, while Sanchez and friends figure to have an easier path toward their territory-seeking objectives on the other side. In the end, Rex and Co. sidestep the trap.