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Doug Marrone tries to cut Toronto negativity off at the pass

By Mark Gaughan

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone made it clear today he doesn't want himself or his players to get caught up in talking about all the ways a game in Toronto isn't as advantageous to the team as a game in Orchard Park.

Marrone acknowledged the obvious; he prefers the atmosphere advantage the team has at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He suggested he's heard good things about the quality of the artificial turf in Rogers Centre this year. (There have been complaints about its quality in past years.) When he fielded a question about the quality of the turf and the lighting (which also isn't great) in the Toronto dome, he gave reporters the message he gave to his players.

"One of the things that I wanted to do and one of my goals during the week was there's been a lot that gets pointed out in this game," Marrone said. "When you look back at how we've performed up there, we have not performed well up there.

"I went back and did a little research. We're minus-9 in turnovers. We've only had the lead at halftime in one of the games. There's a lot of poor things that we as a football team have done.

"What I looked at is I try to make sure when I spoke to the team to avoid whatever people want to say, whether it be the field, whether you're playing indoors, whether it's an away game there. Hey, that's not who we are. That's not what our core is. Our core is to go up there and win. I tried to address that early to try to get that out of our minds."

Buffalo 1-4 in Toronto. Buffalo lost to Seattle last year, 50-17. The lone win was in 2011, 23-0 over Washington.

Bills playoff odds are ozone-thin

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills still are in the playoff picture despite being 4-7.

"That can get you some excited feelings," Bills center and captain Eric Woods said.

"But when that happens you kind of have to look in the mirror and say, 'We have four wins at this point, and we have a long way to go.' "

A loooooooooooooong way to go.

Statistics show passengers have a better chance to survive a plane crash at 4 percent than the Bills have to make the playoffs this year.

You have about the same odds of flipping a coin and having it land on the same side five times in a row. Go ahead. Give that a try. I'm going to run to the dry cleaner and pick up some stuff at the grocery store and come be back after I catch a fish off Strawberry Island. Take your time.

Analytics site NumberFire.com calculates the Bills' postseason chances at 3 percent. FootballOutsiders.com's analysis pegs the Bills' hopes at 2.1 percent.

FootballOutsiders.com calculates that Buffalo has almost the same chance (1.5 percent) of finishing with a record poor enough for a top-three draft choice that of reaching the postseason.

While many scoreboard watchers came away with the feeling the Bills' playoff probability improved during their bye week, the numbers don't agree.

Numberfire.com had the Bills at 3.9 percent, while FootballOutsiders.com listed them at 4.1 percent entering last week's games.

Six teams from each conference qualify for the postseason. Both sites give the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs better than a 99 percent chance.

The sites differ slightly on the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, but their numbers are over 92 percent.

For the last spot, we see a steep drop.

Numberfire.com has the Tennessee Titans in a dead heat with the Miami Dolphins for the sixth seed at 26 percent. The Baltimore Ravens are next 22.2 percent, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers at 21.6 percent.

FootballOutsiders.com has the Steelers' probability slotted sixth at 38 percent, with the Titans next at 13.9 percent.

Matt Ryan makes appeal to Toronto's Falcons fans

By Mark Gaughan

A smorgasboard of NFL jerseys usually are represented when the Buffalo Bills play in Toronto's Rogers Centre. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan isn't sure what to expect from the fans on Sunday but hopes he sees some friendly shirts.

Asked about his expectations for the crowd, Ryan told Buffalo-area reporters by phone today: "Yeah, you know what, we'll anticipate going into it where it's going to be really loud and difficult for us to communicate, and then obviously adjust if it's different. But I'm hoping our fans show up. I'm hoping we've got a bunch of supporters up in Toronto and that they show up this weekend and are pulling for us.”

Ryan on whether the Falcons, a dome team, are catching a break from the NFL schedule makers:

"Considering the weather you guys are getting, I'd say we're both catching a break. I think obviously playing in a dome this time of year, late in the year, that's an advantage for both offenses, because it can be difficult to go out there and play when it's windy and cold and you're either getting hail or snow or whatever. So I think both offenses, it cuts you a little bit of a break."

Video: Bills roundtable with Skurski, Sullivan, Gaughan and Graham

News Sports Reporters Jay Skurski, Jerry Sullivan, Mark Gaughan and Tim Graham talk about the Bills in advance of Sunday's game in Toronto against the Falcons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 years ago, the Bills clinched AFC East, and 'Fandemonium' erupted

Scott Norwood
Scott Norwood, shown in a 1991 Buffalo News photo, kicked a field goal from 30 yards in OT to clinch the Bills' AFC East title in 1988.


It was Thanksgiving week 1988, 25 years ago. After seven non-championship years - including a pair of 2-14 seasons - the Buffalo Bills clinched the Eastern Division crown in the AFC with a 9-6 overtime win over the New York Jets. It was time for a town that has been knocked down and bad-mouthed to jump off the mat and proclaim its victory. "What do they call it -- Pandemonium?" linebacker Darryl Talley asked later. "This was fan-demonium. It was so much fun."

Here, from The Buffalo News archives, are the stories about that game: 

Nov. 21, 1988: Norwood's OT goal is first step as Bills get foot in playoff door

Nov. 21, 1988 Bills touch off 'fan-demonium'

Nov. 21, 1988: Vic Carucci: Celebration by fans 'amazing to see'

Nov. 21, 1988: Larry Felser: When Bills say jump, Fred asks how high?

Nov. 21, 1988: Monday billboard

Nov. 21, 1988: Bills pay physical price for clinching AFC East

Nov. 22, 1988: Editorial: Congratulations, Bills. We're all talking proud

Nov. 20, 1988: Game preview: Bills go after the clincher against the Jets

Nov. 19, 1988: Eyes of world are following Bills' success

How the local fared: Week 12

By Jay Skurski

Our weekly rundown on the Press Coverage blog of the players from Western New York (along with the University at Buffalo) currently in the NFL:

Steven Means: The Buffalo native and Grover Cleveland and University at Buffalo product -- a rookie defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- was inactive for his team's 24-21 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Mike Williams: The Tampa Bay receiver -- a Buffalo native and Riverside product --  finished his season with 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He was placed on injured reserve because of a torn hamstring on Oct. 28.

James Starks: The Green Bay Packers running back, a Niagara Falls and University at Buffalo product, carried three times for 37 yards in a 26-26 tie against the Minnesota Vikings. Starks also caught one pass for minus-5 yards, playing eight offensive snaps (9 percent) and another eight on special teams (21 percent).

J.C. Tretter: The Akron product, a fourth-round draft pick of the Packers in April, is on the team’s physically unable to perform list after he broke his ankle in May. He is eligible to come off the list and begin practicing. The team then must decide within three weeks to activate him to the 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve for the season.

Rob Gronkowski: Gronkowski had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots' 34-31 overtime victory against the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. For the first time this season, he appeared in 100 percent of the offensive snaps (87 in total) for the Patriots.

Brett Kern: The Grand Island native punted four times for 163 yards for the Tennessee Titans in a 23-19 win at Oakland. He had a net average of 29 yards on the punts, with one downed inside the 20 and two returned for a total of 18 yards.

Corey Graham: The Baltimore Ravens' cornerback, a Buffalo native and Turner/Carroll product, had two interceptions and defended three passes during Baltimore's 19-3 victory over the New York Jets. Graham played 36 defensive snaps (63 percent) and another 17 (61 percent) on special teams. Graham defended three passes and made one tackle in the win.

Note: Local players Dan Gronkowski, Chris Gronkowski, Jeremy Kelley, Naaman Roosevelt and Doug Worthington are currently free agents. 

UB players

Josh Thomas: Thomas recorded his first career interception for the Panthers in a 20-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins. He played 13 defensive snaps (21 percent) and another 21 snaps on special teams (66 percent), making two special teams tackles.

Trevor Scott: Scott was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the team's 31-13 loss to Carolina in Week Eight. He had played in four games with the Bucs, making three tackles.

Bon Jovi pursuing the Bills: As big as '80s hair or just a tease?

By Tim Graham

Jon Bon Jovi reportedly wants to buy the Buffalo Bills. Imagine all that hairspray in the owner's box. The team store would be unable to keep acid-wash jeans in stock.

And know this: He wouldn't laugh at your Zubaz.

But a Bon Jovi public-relations agent named Ken Sunshine, reached today by Associated Press reporter John Wawrow, called Sunday's reports "preposterous."

Regardless, Bon Jovi was a topic at One Bills Drive today.

Because there's no shortage of preposterous occurrences in the NFL.

"That's out there," Bills center Eric Wood said. "Of all the theories ... If Jim Kelly was going to buy the team or whoever, Bon Jovi probably is the most out there.

"But those rock stars accumulate a ton of money. Who knows? If he's big enough of a football fan, I'm sure he can assemble the money."

Bon Jovi is primary owner of the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League and has ties to Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Air Canada Centre.

Bills coach Doug Marrone was asked if he knew Bon Jovi, a friend of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Kansas University coach Charlie Weis.

"I'm from the Bronx," Marrone said. "I didn't grow up with special privileges.

"I'm just a football coach. I'm not a groupie."

Rep tells AP that rocker Bon Jovi is not pursuing Bills purchase

By Jay Skurski

A representative for Jon Bon Jovi today told the Associated Press that the singer would one day like to be an NFL owner, but that "it's preposterous to say he's had any discussions with the Bills and Erie County."

Los Angeles-based public relations consultant Ken Sunshine spoke with AP sports reporter John Wawrow, largely shooting down Sunday's report from CBS Sports that Bon Jovi is "among the parties positioning to purchase the Buffalo Bills when the team comes up for sale."

"The Bills are not for sale, and he has too much respect for Mr. Wilson to engage in any discussions of buying the team," Sunshine told Wawrow, referring to team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.

When reached via email by The Buffalo News early this afternoon, Sunshine declined further comment: "Sorry -- not doing anything further on this story."

Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods are back and other Bills notes

By Tim Graham

Some notes from the start of Buffalo Bills practice today in the field house:

Wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods were on the field and appeared to be participating in all the drills for the portion of practice reporters are allowed to watch. Johnson (groin) missed the Bills last game. Woods (ankle) missed the past two.

"They looked good," Bills coach Doug Marrone said of Johnson and Woods. "They looked fresh."

Rookie cornerback Jonathan Meeks (ankle) was on the field today, the earliest he could return to practice since being placed on recallable injured reserve. The Bills can activate Meeks in two weeks.

Marrone said running back Ronnie Wingo wasn't at practice today because of a missed flight.

"He'll be fined," Marrone said.

The Bills signed tackle Manase Foketi to the practice squad and released guard Bryant Browning.

For the dreamers: Here's what would help Bills' playoff hopes today

By Jay Skurski

Will the final real playoff team in the AFC please stand up (please stand up, please stand up).

The sixth and final postseason spot in the American Football Conference is wide open, and even at 4-7, the Buffalo Bills are not out of the race. The Bills have, however, burned up pretty much all of their mulligans, and will likely be forced to win out when they return from the bye week -- along with needing some help. Here's a look at the race for the final playoff spot, and what Bills fans should be hoping for today.

    6. New York Jets (5-5) -- Hold the final playoff spot because of holding the tiebreaker over Miami based on record within division games.
    Today: at Baltimore, 1 p.m. Bills fans should be hoping for a Baltimore victory over New York, because the Bills hold the first tiebreaker over the Ravens, which is a head-to-head victory.
    ............
    7. Miami (5-5) -- vs. Carolina, 1 p.m. -- Bills fans should be all in on Cam Newton today.
    8. Oakland (4-6) -- vs. Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.
    9. Tennessee (4-6) -- at Oakland, 4:05 p.m. -- Oakland has the better conference record in this game, so that's one reason to consider pulling for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
    10. Pittsburgh (4-6) -- at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
    11. Baltimore (4-6) -- vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m.
    12. Cleveland (4-6) -- vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. -- Tough one here. Both the Browns and Steelers have the first tiebreaker on the Bills.
    13. San Diego (4-6) -- at Kansas City, 1 p.m. -- Alex Smith and Co. should have Buffalo's support.
    14. Buffalo (4-7) -- BYE.

Assuming there are no ties, the Bills will lose ground to at least three teams based on today's matchups. As the standings show, there are a lot of teams between them and the sixth spot. In games where there is a clear rooting interest, however, Bills fans should be pulling for the Ravens, Panthers and Chiefs.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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