All on the line for Bills

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

Maybe this time, things will be different for the Buffalo Bills. Maybe there will be no "wide right," no Music City Miracle, no new chump chapter for their fans to debate for decades to come.

Maybe the Bills will be the second team in NFL history to overcome an 0-4 start and make the post-season and not the ones left to wonder why they missed out with a record of 10-6.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't bet against it, either.

The hard-luck Bills of the past have become quite a story in the present, winning six in a row and eight of their past nine.

As a result, whent the Bills play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers today, a frenzied Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd will witness the most important home game since the playoffs were last in town in 1996.

The post-season picture is as clear as it is challenging. But considering all the things that had to go right for them over the past month, the odds look much better to the Bills this morning.

First things first, following today's kickoff, the Bills must defeat the Steelers, a team which, at 14-1, has the NFL's best record.

Second, they need either the St. Louis Rams to upset the New York Jets in another 1 p.m. start, or the Indianapolis Colts to defeat the Denver Broncos in a game beginning at 4:15.

There will be scoreboard watching in the stadium and, if necessary, a post-game tailgate/vigil to see if one of the hottest teams in the NFL will carry on to the playoffs.

Literally, the odds are in the Bills favour for the first requirement, where they are favoured by nine points over the Steelers.

In the other two, the numbers are stacked against them. The Broncos are nine-point picks because the Colts will rest many of their veterans for much of the game. The visiting Jets, meanwhile, are three-point favourites over the Rams.

It wouldn't have come down to such drama for the Bills if they hadn't got off to such a miserable start or if they resided in the NFC where they would have already wrapped up a playoff spot.

The other games will mean nothing if the Bills don't get past the Steelers, who will head to the playoffs as the AFC's top seed. Though they will rest many starters, the Steelers are claiming a win and resulting 15-1 record would mean something. Considering their first playoff game won't be for another two weeks, sharpness may also be a concern.

"It's a very confident team that's playing well and you want to keep that rolling," said quarterback Tommy Maddox who will fill in today for resting/injured rookie Ben Roethlisberger. "Every time you step on the field, you want to go out there and play to the best of your abilities."

No matter what happens today, the Bills' future will seem considerably brighter than it has been since that Music City Miracle playoff loss in Nashville back in 1999.

First-year coach Mike Mularkey never promised his team would be contenders overnight. Rather, he has methodically built an offence to complement the once-struggling quarterback Drew Bledsoe and the Bills defence has clearly established itself as one of the best in the league.

The bonus has been the play of running back Willis McGahee. The Bills are 9-1 with the rookie as a starter and he arguably has yet to hit his best stride. With that defence and McGahee running the ball, the Bills have a solid shell they can build on to.

But enough of the more distant future. Today, one of the best venues in the NFL for atmosphere will be at its best, willing the Bills to be the same.


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