Bills must deliver thrills

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

With each Buffalo Bills loss, the greater the risk this whole T.O. experiment is doomed.

And for a change, we're not talking about the saga of childish, churlish receiver Terrell Owens.

The other T.O. project, the one bringing NFL games to the Rogers Centre, could use a Bills win or three about now to make business easier for the Rogers folks, who paid millions for the rights to the five-year Toronto series.

The Dec. 3 date against the New York Jets seems far away and therein lies the potential problem. The ticket-selling campaign to fill the stadium with Bills fans is heating up just as the team is turning stone cold.

With a 1-3 record, and that lone win against 0-4 Tampa Bay, the Bills are a couple more losses from pushing flush on yet another season.

Fall at home this Sunday to the Browns -- who have now lost 10 in a row and are even worse than the Bucs -- and things will get mighty ugly across the Peace Bridge. There already have been calls for the head of coach Dick Jauron and patience with Owens is wearing thin.

With quarterback Trent Edwards seemingly regressing in his third season, there were even suggestions this week that Owens and fellow wideout Lee Evans would be better served by former quarterback J.P. Losman, who never met a deep route he didn't like.

Owens offered a little gallows humour when asked to comment yesterday on the fact that the Browns have traded wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

"Hey, maybe we'll have a chance to win this weekend," Owens joked.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Definitely that's my approach and I'm hoping the guys take that approach as well."

Trouble is, the Bills actually started in decent form and appear to have slammed it into reverse. On the opening Monday night, they nearly knocked off the powerhouse New England Patriots. The following week, they beat the Bucs in their home opener.

The past two games, however, have resulted in losses to New Orleans and Miami by a combined score of 65-17. Against the Dolphins this past Sunday, an injury-riddled defence was no match for an "attack" led by quarterback Chad Penne, who was making his first career start.

So how does all this affect Toronto?

Well, shilling for the Dec. 3 prime time date against the Jets is increasing in volume, as we have seen with commercials and ads trumpeting reduced ticket prices from the outrageous tab a year ago.

Good tickets, as they say, are still available.

A cruise through the Bills In Toronto website yesterday showed that you could get four seats together in just about any area of the dome.

We have little doubt that it will be a full house for that Thursday night game -- there are any number of ways to make that happen even if early ticket sales are slow. But one of the potential pitfalls for the Bills is that the Rogers Centre will be half full of green clad fans shouting "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets."

The Blue Jays see -- and benefit from -- the transient New York sports fan when the QEW becomes clogged with Yankees faithful making the trip north for a series.

With the Jets an emerging story in the NFL season and tickets scarce for home games at the Meadowlands, it may soon be time to start planning a trip, especially if in a few weeks the Bills are 1-6 and the Jets are 6-1.

From a revenue standpoint, it probably doesn't matter to the people at Rogers who buys the tickets. But the main thrust of the Bills series was for the team to regionalize its brand and appeal, not end up playing a meaningless game in what ends up being a glorified neutral site.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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