A Week 9 defeat to the New York Jets was the beginning of the Buffalo Bills ' current slide. Trying to end that skid and remain a playoff contender only will only get tougher without their star running back on board.
Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss, the beleaguered Bills try for some rare success against a Jets team that is hoping to end their own rough stretch Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Mired in a three-game skid where its has been outscored 106-26, Buffalo's once promising season took another blow when the team announced Wednesday that Fred Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his lower right leg.
Third in the NFL with 934 rushing yards, Jackson was on pace for a career season. Now, the Bills turn to underachieving 2010 first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who has run for 398 yards and one touchdown on 95 carries in 24 career games.
"My feeling is that if you've got a team that is that fragile, you're in trouble," Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said. "I believe we have guys that understand about fighting through tough times and fighting through adversity."
The Bills, who like the Jets (5-5) are two games behind first-place New England in the AFC East, have no choice but to fight on if they want to avoid a 12th straight season without a playoff appearance.
Led by Ryan Fitzpatrick , Buffalo averaged 32.8 points while winning four of its first five games. However, it's put up just 14.3 per contest over the last five.
"We're trying to figure out some answers, and looking to see some results this week," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick needs to regain the form that allowed him to throw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2010. Though he's completing a career-high 63.6 percent of his passes, Fitzpatrick has thrown 16 TDs and 14 interceptions - one fewer pick than his entire 2010 total. Eleven of those interceptions have come over the last six games.
He also has thrown three touchdowns against eight picks during a four-game November losing streak dating to last season. Fitzpatrick was intercepted twice while going 15 of 31 for 191 yards in a 27-11 home loss to New York on Nov. 6.
Star receiver Stevie Johnson has been held to seven receptions over the past three games after compiling 39 in the first seven contests. He has 11 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown in his last three games versus New York.
The Bills have been outscored 122-45 during a four-game skid against the Jets that dates to a 16-13 win at the Meadowlands on Oct. 18, 2009.
Facing Buffalo could be what the Jets need to get back on track after losing 37-16 to New England and 17-13 at Denver in a span of five days.
"I think everyone kind of feels like it's now or never," safety Jim Leonhard said. "We have to play well, and we have to play well now."
Despite its recent struggles, New York is not about to panic considering it was 4-6 at this time last season before it finished the regular season by winning five of six and ultimately reached the AFC championship game for the second straight year.
The Jets also face one team currently with a winning record - New York Giants - in the final six games.
"In this game, you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself," linebacker Bart Scott said. "You have to move on, and you have to get ready to play. "This is a good opportunity for us to get on the right track and try to go on a roll, because we have to. We can't afford to lose any more games."
In order to prevent that from happening, quarterback Mark Sanchez needs to improve his play from the last two games. He's thrown for 2,333 yards and 14 touchdowns, but 10 interceptions - two of which have been returned for touchdowns in last two losses.
Sanchez was 20 of 28 for 230 yards with a TD and an interception at Buffalo earlier this month.
The Jets expect to have running back Shonn Greene available after he injured his ribs at Denver. Greene has just one 100-yard game and two TDs this season but has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his last three games versus Buffalo.
New York's 83 total yards on the ground against the Broncos snapped a streak of four straight games with at least 100 rushing yards.