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The Tailgate Report: Sunday, Dec. 26

4:10 p.m. ORCHARD PARK -- A losing season for the Buffalo Bills put a damper on business for some street vendors outside Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"This year has been slower than past years, absolutely," said Kelly Cerrone, who has been setting up shop on Abbott Road for 20 years. "The fact that they weren't able to sell out in the season the way they've been playing, unfortunately, has affected us."

Cerrone, of Buffalo, estimated that the dour season has impacted half of his sales at home games.

Vendors on Abbott Road today pushed discounts on sweatshirts, hats and other items as they sought to unload merchandise during the last home game of the season.

Jerry Smith, of Batavia, turned to selling Sabres sweatshirts for $10 each after selling out of his Buffalo Bills gear.

"Actually, today was good," Smith said. "We've got to do a lot of talking, do a lot of moving to keep our bodies warm."

Other vendors reporting having a strong year, despite the difficulty selling out home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Forrest Viola, of Fairport, said sales can hinge on who the Bills are playing and the weather. The season brought a mix of "bad games," where merchandise just didn't move, and "good games," where sales were high, Viola and his co-workers said. 

"Weather has a big factor on it," said Viola, who works the vending scene as a side job. "If it's rainy and cold, no one comes. If it's just cold, you get a good crowd."

Hear more from vendors outside The Ralph in this video: 

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1:05 p.m. ORCHARD PARK -- Season ticket holders tailgating in Parking Lot 5B today are rounding out the season's final home game with an eye toward 2011.

"It's not a rough year; it's a building year," said Matt Casacci, of Orchard Park. "We've got another couple years. We're going to the top. It starts with one year."

Casacci shrugged off the team's 4-10 record as he huddled around a fire pit on top of a layer of snow this afternoon.

"There's no giving up," Casacci said.

Nick Gillette, a machinist from Orchard Park, agreed.

"The fans that are all about the draft pick, that's the problem," said Gillette, who has had seasons tickets for seven years. "We're here to win, and we're here to be Bills fans."

No matter how frigid the wind chill -- or how bad the season -- fans like Gillette aren't giving up hope.

"I really think they've finished the season strong," said Chuck Mallia, a Williamsville resident who has been tailgating with his brother-in-law, Art Weigand, for years. "And I think they've got a strong possibility of winning today."

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11:20 a.m. ORCHARD PARK -- Adam Rivers and nine of his friends from western Massachusetts made the trek to Ralph Wilson Stadium last night to cheer on the New England Patriots for one simple reason.

"It's cheaper for us to be here today and sit in the fifth row then it is to go sit in the last row in New England," said Rivers, a disc jockey from Chicopee, Mass.

So Rivers and his friends climbed in two trucks last night and made the seven-hour overnight trip to arrive in Orchard Park just as the parking lots opened at 8 a.m.

They're not alone on this final 2010 home game for the Buffalo Bills. A sea of blue and red in Parking Lot 5B includes a fair number of Patriots fans. Bills fans clearly outnumber New England supporters, but there is a Patriots presence here at the lot.

For 22-year-old Rivers, who describes himself as a "Patriots fan since birth," it was clearly about economics and the chance to see the Patriots in an opposing stadium. It doesn't hurt that his team is on a 14-game winning streak against the Bills.

He estimated that tickets in the last row at Gillette Stadium in New England would cost more than double than what he paid for his tickets in Orchard Park.

"In between gas, tolls, parking, driving out here, it's still cheaper for us to go here," Rivers said.

Matt Jolie, a Pats fan from Marlborough, Mass., drove in last night for a three-day weekend in Western New York with his girlfriend, Stacey Stanovich. The pair try to attend at least one Bills-Patriots game every year, and plan to visit Niagara Falls and Buffalo while they're in the region.

"It's a lot cheaper," Jolie said. "We can make a weekend out of what I can make for one game out there." 

Rivers said he expected a bit of good-natured heckling from Bills fans. Every few minutes, the group elicited a few boos from other game goers. 

"That's right," one man dressed in Bills gear shouted as he drove by Rivers in an SUV. "Get out of the way for the Bills fans."

***

9:20 a.m. ORCHARD PARK -- The air is crisp. The parking lot fires are burning, and Bills fans are preparing for the final home game of the season.

We're live at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where traffic is starting to pick up and the 21-degree temperature is about as warm as it's going to get today.

If you're heading to the game, prepare for wind chills that will make the air feel like it's in the single digits. The National Weather Service has issued a short-term forecast for the region that calls for scattered flurries and light snow showers this morning.

See what News Sports Reporters Allen Wilson, Mark Gaughan and Jerry Sullivan had to say about the game this week in Week 16 Preview: Patriots at Bills:

For full pre-game coverage, check out The News' Bills & NFL page, where Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan writes about Tom Brady and News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan explores what the future holds for the team's 11 free agents.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. on Channel 4. 

--Denise Jewell Gee

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