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Bills announce 2 sellouts

The Buffalo Bills' home opener against the Oakland Raiders and the third home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles both are sold out, the team announced today.

The Raiders game is Sept. 18. The Eagles, with star quarterback Michael Vick and ex-Bill Jason Peters, come to Orchard Park on Oct. 9. Meanwhile, the Bills said only limited tickets are left for the second home game, against chief nemesis New England, on Sept. 25.

The other home games in Orchard Park are against the Jets Nov. 6, the Titans Dec. 4, the Dolphins Dec. 18 and the Broncos Dec. 24.

---Mark Gaughan

Jackson gets M&T deal

It used to be that even the long-snapper for the Buffalo Bills had his own radio show. Not so much anymore. But Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has done enough for the team and is popular enough to have struck his own marketing deal with M&T Bank.

Jackson has agreed to be the face of M&T Bank advertising in Western New York in an agreement the bank is announcing today. Jackson is the spokesman for Buffalo Bills checking with the bank and will be featured in the bank's advertising campaign throughout the football season. M&T also has a deal with the Bills as its official bank. Jackson and the bank will donate 155 tickets to the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo for Thursday's preseason game against Detroit.

“Fred Jackson makes a great addition to the M&T team. He works hard in practice, runs hard on the field and he shares our belief in serving Bills fans and the community, which makes him a great member of the team to raise the green flag of M&T Bank,” said M&T Bank Chief Marketing Officer Peter J. Eliopoulos.

---Mark Gaughan

Preseason finale blacked out; Jefferson waived

The Bills announced the preseason finale Thursday night against the Detroit Lions has not been sold out and therefore will not be shown on local television. The game will be shown on tape delay at 8 p.m. Friday on Channel 7. Tickets remain on sale.

The Bills released linebacker Brad Jefferson today, trimming their roster to 80 players in accordance with league rules. The Bills made all but one of their necessary cuts Sunday, bringing back Jefferson for one more practice before waiving him.

Jefferson, 22, was an undrafted rookie from Georgia Tech who was looking for a spot in the Bills' 3-4 defense. He had eight tackles Saturday against Jacksonville, his most productive performance of the preseason. Otherwise, he did little to set himself apart.

--- Bucky Gleason

No love at all for Fitz

Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick is the 32nd best quarterback in the NFL, according to a Scouts Inc. rating on That's No. 32 in a 32-team league. 

The listing has him as the 27th best starting quarterback. The starters for Cleveland, Washington, Carolina, Seattle and Cincinnati are behind the Bills' No. 1 gun. After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. rated more than 2,500 players entering the 2011 season. They included 89 quarterbacks on their list.

Who was No. 89???? J.P. Losman, who currently is a free agent.

The ranking, obviously, was subjective. Among those ahead of Fitz on the list included: Matt Cassel (16), Kyle Orton (22), Chad Henne (23), Mark Sanchez (24), Tim Tebow (27), Jon Kitna (38), Shaun Hill (29) and Alex Smith (30).

According to ESPN's new quarterback rating system, which involves a detailed analysis of each play's result and is somewhat subjective, Fitzpatrick ranked right in the middle - 16th - last season. Fitz's QBR was 48.7 (based on a scale of 100). He was ahead of Carson Palmer (46.7), Sanchez (47.7), Kyle Orton (46.6), and Jay Cutler (42.6), among others. He was behind David Garrard (57.3) and Cassel (51.2). Garrard has had a nice career, but I'd take Fitz over Garrard and Cassel.

---Mark Gaughan 

King optimistic on Bills

The Sports Illustrated NFL preview is out, and senior writer Peter King forecasts a 7-9 finish for the Bills. I think Bills fans probably would take that without too much thought right now. King has the AFC East finish like this: Pats 12-4, Jets 10-6, Bills 7-9, Dolphins 6-10. His other division winners are Steelers, Colts, Chargers, Eagles, Packers, Saints and Rams, with the Falcons over the Chargers in the Super Bowl.

It's prediction season. On, the writers' picks for the Bills went like this: Jason LaCanfora 5-11, 4th in AFC East; Steve Wyche, 6-10, 4th; Pat Kirwan 6-10, third; ex-Bill Bucky Brooks 5-11, 4th; and Eliot Harrison 5-11, 4th.

---Mark Gaughan


ILB no worry any more

Inside linebacker was looking like a worry position for the Buffalo Bills after the early hours of free agency, when Paul Posluszny signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills appear well protected for injuries at the inside linebacker spots now. Last week's signing of veteran Kirk Morrison gives them three experienced veterans in the middle to go with young guys Kelvin Sheppard and Chris White. Morrison, who has started 95 of 96 games, participated in his first Bills practice Monday.

Said Gailey of Morrison: “He’s a veteran linebacker that’s played ‘mike’ linebacker a decent amount, and he’s been productive over the years. He brings some experience, speed and hopefully some good play to our football team. It’s going to take some work to get him involved and get him acclimated, but we’ve got a little bit of time so we’ll do the best we can.”

Gailey on Brad Smith and Kyle Williams sitting out practice: “He twisted his foot. I don’t know if we could call it an ankle, but he hurt his foot in the ball game the other day and finished the game. It just kind of got sore on him so we’re being precautionary and holding him out right now. Kyle Williams played in the game and did fine, but we’re being precautionary with a few things right now.”

Gailey said Donald Jones, Roscoe Parrish, Johnny White and Shawne Merriman all were limited in practice. "We’re just breaking them back in slowly. They got to practice today, but we’re going to be very careful with those guys."

---Mark Gaughan

Roster closer to full health

The Bills had a bunch of injured people back at practice today as players prepare for the final push for roster spots. The cuts to 53 will come at 6 p.m. Saturday. Back from injuries were receiver Roscoe Parrish (hamstring), receiver Donald Jones (head), running back Johnny White (head), tight end Shawn Nelson (leg) and inside linebacker Chris White (ankle). Quarterback Brad Smith was among those watching. He took a few big hits in Saturday's preseason game. Also sitting out were receiver Naaman Roosevelt, linebacker Jammie Kirlew, linebacker Arthur Moats, tackle Ed Wang, tight end David Martin and nose tackle Kyle Williams. Linebacker Shawne Merriman was practicing fully. He had returned last Thursday. Defensive tackle Kellen Heard, who has had a pretty good summer but who sat out Saturday, was back.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills exhibition afterthoughts

Here are some exhibition afterthoughts as the Bills begin to prepare for their final preseason game Thursday against Detroit.

Nick Barnett looks like a real good addition at linebacker. He made a nice play to snuff out a reverse in Denver and plugged a couple holes well against the Jaguars. Alex Carrington did pretty well against the Jags as a hybrid linebacker. He set the edge well on the first series and tripped up David Garrard from behind on a four-man rush on the second. Antonio Coleman had a sack and Danny Batten was active on the outside. The jury, however, is way out on how much pass rush they can provide in a four-man rush. We don't have enough information yet. ... Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin were the starters at cornerback early in the game against regular formations against the Jaguars.

The right side of the offensive line has had two improved games in a row since the exhibition opener in Chicago. The Jaguars, of course, were missing their best pass rusher Saturday.

Hopes are high for keeping drives alive on third and short with Brad Smith in the game. He's looking very good in those situations. It was a great call by Chan Gailey to have Smith throw on third and 1 late in the first half. It was incomplete for Stevie Johnson, and the Bills had to punt. But putting that play on film will keep safeties thinking a bit more on third-and-short situations.

It was nice to see the value of a big target in the red zone on Marcus Easley's TD catch off a throw that Ryan Fitzpatrick put over the defensive back's head.

Tyler Thigpen is completing only 44 percent of his passes after a 50 percent outing vs. the Jaguars. But it's too early to draw definitive conclusions on that, either. He's playing with a revolving cast. His INT for a TD came on a mix-up with a receiver, not as a result of accuracy. He misfired on a third-down throw for Felton Huggins that looked like a misread on his part (Huggins had stopped his route vs. zone coverage). There were a couple drops, including a screen pass that would have gone for big yards. He did have some unforced off-target throws, no doubt. We won't get a great read on whether he can be a 58 percent passer unless he gets called on in the regular season.

Blaine Gabbert has a big arm. It's easy to see how scouts could fall in love with the way he throws. We still worry about his overall production in college. But don't count on David Garrard starting the full year. It will be easy for the Jags to throw him under the bus sometime around midseason and get on with the Gabbert era.

Presuming receiver Ruvell Martin is among the final cuts, here's hoping the Bills don't hand out No. 83 this season. Martin was signed due to the spate of injuries at the WR position. It's hard to avoid giving out all the numbers in the 80s. Tight ends and wideouts can wear 80s. Tight ends also can wear 40s, but so can linebackers and defensive backs. Wideouts also can wear numbers in the teens. But the Bills have all the numbers in the teens given out, except for No. 12, which is retired. All the numbers in the 80s are taken. All but one in the 40s is taken. Once the cuts are made, lots of numbers open up. The Bills should pay respect to Andre Reed and not hand his number out after the final cuts. ... Then next year they should try to give it to some long, long shot rookie. With Lee Evans out of the picture, it would be nice to go a couple seasons without anyone wearing Reed's 83.

--Mark Gaughan

Bills cut Hubbard

---The Bills released six players today including wide receiver Paul Hubbard who sent Saturday’s game into overtime with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Others who were cut include defensive back Rajric Coleman, running back Anthony Elzy, punter Reid Forrest, cornerback Loyce Means and offensive lineman Isaiah Thompson.

---Rodney McKissic


Final: Bills 35, Jags 32, OT

The Bills' offense looked very sharp -- yes, you read that correctly -- in taking a 17-0 lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars before a Kids Day Crowd of 50,615 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. At least they gave some hope that the season might not be so long and dreary after all.

Buffalo had the big lead early in the game when both teams were playing their starters before Jacksonville scored 32 straight points. Most of the damage was done by the Jags' reserves in the second half while the Bills backups stumbled in ways that are all to familiar.

Rian Lindell finally ended the game with a 40-yard field goal 12:26 into overtime.

The Bills came back and scored twice in the fourth quarter and tied the game, 32-32, with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when receiver Paul Hubbard scored on a 4-yard touchdown catch and caught a conversion pass from Tyler Thigpen. The marathon game became laugable with both teams making mistakes amid video reviews and overtime.

Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bills to three scoring drives on their first three possessions. He opened the game with 10 straight completions for 154 yards and two TDs on his first three series. He found Marcus Easley for an 11-yard touchdown on their first possession of the second quarter and connected with Stevie Johnson on a 52-yard TD on the next series.

And, by the way, Fitz shaved his beard.

Some other notes:

* Andy Levitre started at left guard and was moved to left tackle, continuing the rotation during the practice last week with Demetrius Bell and reserve guard Chad Rinehart.

* Fred Jackson had a bulk of the action in the backfield in the first half after complaining last week that he didn't know where he stood on the depth chart. He had 19 plays to C.J. Spiller's seven until late in the first half, when Spiller was given more time with the first-string offense.

* Fitz was 11 for 11 before throwing his first incompletion, a pass attempt for Easley that was knocked down. He played only the first half, completing 11 of 12 passes for 165 yards passing and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

The third preseason game is usually the most telling because the starters on both teams play longer than they do in other games.

The Bills looked very efficient on both sides of the ball. Jackson gained 33 yards on nine carries on the first three possessions. Spiller had 21 yards on four carries. Kyle Williams, who recently signed a six-year contract worth $39 million, had a sack. Johnson had five catches for 76 yards. Easley had five catches for 51 yards and the TD.

Jacksonville answered with a 74-yard scoring drive, capped when quarterback David Garrard scambled for a 4-yard touchdown through the Bills' defense. Josh Scobee kicked a 45-yard field goal seven seconds before halftime to bring Jacksonville within a touchdown.

The Jags' reserves outplayed the Bills' backups in the third quarter before Bills running back Bruce Hall scored from the 5 with eight minutes remaining. Backup QB Tyler Thigpen threw a terrible interception when his pass intended for -- who? -- landed in Jacob Cutera's hands for an easy 16-yard return into the end zone.

Still, the Bills were the much better team in the first half. Are they making progress? Is Jacksonville's first-team defense that bad? It could be a combination of both.

--- Bucky Gleason


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