Bills have a lot of work to do yet

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

The Buffalo Bills have a laundry list of things to clean up before they can be considered legitimate playoff contenders.

Like stopping the run. Like winning a game on the road. And like finding a way for Willis McGahee to keep pounding the football when the inevitable happens and defences decide to key on him.

But for the next 12 days or so, let the Bills and their fans enjoy the ride.

Let them revel in the fact that they've defeated teams quarterbacked by a retiree (Vinny Testaverde, New York Jets), a journeyman (Gus Frerotte, Miami Dolphins) and a stiff (David Carr, Houston Texans).

And once that is out of their system, get ready for reality -- a prime-time date with the Super Bowl champions.

The Bills got some good news and bad news yesterday with regards to their immediate future.

For this Sunday's contest in Oakland, it now appears likely that superstar receiver Randy Moss won't play because of an injury. Should Kelly Holcomb push the Bills' record to 4-3 in what has to be seen as a winnable game, a showdown with their AFC East co-leaders awaits in New England.

Cue the less encouraging news. The champs are on a bye week, alternately licking the wounds of a roster battered by injury and being thankful that the toughest part of their schedule is behind them.

With word confirmed yesterday that linebacker Tedy Bruschi is recovered from his mild stroke and plans to return, possibly as soon as that Oct. 30 date against the Bills, New England's season suddenly doesn't look so grim.

Six of the Patriots' 10 remaining games are against AFC East competition and a 5-1 or 6-0 run against that average bunch is not out of the question.

If the Bills are ready to take the step up from average, they'll find out against the first of two meetings against the Pats.

No joltin' Joey

The Joey Harrington boo-birds in Detroit have company, it seems. With merely a mediocre offence, the Lions would be clear leaders in the NFC North, thanks to the play of a strong and improving defence. But the "O" put up just six points in Sunday's 21-20 heartbreaking loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Instead, interceptions are the biggest offensive tool for the Lions, who scored twice on picks of quarterback Jake Delhomme on Sunday.

Besides pining for backup Jeff Garcia's broken leg to heal, the ineptitude prompted frustrated Lions defensive back Dre Bly to join the chorus of Joey bashers.

"It's embarrassing," said Bly, whose team somehow is tied for the divisional lead. "We might as well suit up and play offence."

Big Ben or bust

That the Jacksonville Jaguars would play the Pittsburgh Steelers tough and even pull off the mild upset on the road isn't a surprise.

That coach Bill Cowher stuck with backup quarterback Tommy Maddox, who tossed the fatal overtime interception that led to the Jaguars' winning TD, is another matter.

Injured starter Ben Roethlisberger admitted to pleading to his coach prior to the game to get the start but was denied.

"Coach's decision," said Roethlisberger, who suffered a knee sprain in the Steelers' previous game but still dressed.

Here's guessing the next coach's decision is that Big Ben will start in Sunday's crucial road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


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