The big is back in Buffalo

Bills running back Fred Jackson  celebrates the club's victory against the Redskins fans at the...

Bills running back Fred Jackson celebrates the club's victory against the Redskins fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 30, 2011. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

They fondly refer to it as “The Scrubs Game” in Pittsburgh.

They bitterly refer to it as “The $%#*%#! Game” in Buffalo.

On the final day of the 2004 NFL regular season, the 9-6 Buffalo Bills needed only to beat a visiting 14-1 Pittsburgh Steelers team to have a shot at a wild-card spot for the post-season.

With the Steelers already having clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, coach Bill Cowher wisely started a gaggle of backups, including a relatively unknown free-agent running back named Willie Parker.

Three hours later, all of Buffalo knew him.

And hated him.

Parker scampered through the Buffalo defence for 102 yards as the Steelers defeated Drew Bledsoe’s Bills 29-24. The entire city was crushed, especially since various other results throughout the league that day meant the Bills would have made the playoffs with a win.

Almost seven years later, it could be argued that the Bills will be playing their most significant home game, in terms of the AFC standings and a bid for a post-season berth, since that devastating loss to the Steelers.

Admittedly, a victory over the division-rival New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday will clinch absolutely nothing for these Cinderella Bills, especially when it comes to the playoffs.

At the same time, a win would put the Bills at 6-2 and in the driver’s seat as they clamour to make the post-season for the first time since the 1999 campaign. In the process, the Jets would fall to 4-4, a huge blow to Rex Ryan’s playoff hopes.

On the other hand, a Jets win would deadlock the teams with 5-3 records heading into the second half of the season, an imposing scenario for a Buffalo team that faces three AFC East road games down the stretch.

Biggest game at The Ralph since 2004? You definitely could make that argument.

To that end, the Bills understand the significance of what lies ahead for them during their three-hour bruising chess match against sharp-tongued Jets coach Ryan. And they are pulling out all the stops.

For the first time in 25 years, the Bills will wear their white jerseys for a home game, a span that dates back to Jim Kelly’s rookie year in Buffalo.

The raucous throng at The Ralph already is being asked to follow suit as part of team’s “whiteout” promotion. About 50,000 white pom poms will be handed out to arriving spectators, who are being asked by Bills players to wear white in the stands as well.

“#WHITEOUT Sunday at the Ralph Everyone wear all white” tweeted Bills defensive back Drayton Florence.

On the surface, it appears to be a matchup of strength vs. strength — the Bills high-octane offence against the Jets bruising defence. With Ryan firing off blitzes from every corner of the field, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick knows it could be a long afternoon.

“When you play the Jets you can’t figure out what they’re doing half the time on defence,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re sending guys from everywhere, running guys all around. They may have an advantage just in the fact that they had an extra week (bye week) to prepare.”

Having said that, Fitzpatrick welcomes the challenge of going head-to-head against an AFC East foe.

“We’re playing in front of our fans, our crowd and that gives us all the advantage that I think we need,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re looking forward to this game.

“We know it’s going to be a tough fight and they’ve been tough every time we’ve played them. But in order to do what we want to do in our division we’ve got to beat the best going through them (Jets), the Patriots and taking care of the Dolphins. That’s what we have to do this year.

“If you want to be playoff team you’ve got to win games in your division.”

Bills fans are hoping the change in jerseys will be the white stuff to do exactly that.

ROAD TO THE RALPH

New York Jets 4-3

Sept 11: W 27-24 vs. Dallas — Late Romo fumble, INT, paves way for comeback.

Sept 18: W 32-3 vs. Jacksonville — Looked like a juggernaut.

Sept 25: L 34-24 @ Oakland — McFadden shreds porous Jets run defence.

Oct 2: L 34-17 @ Baltimore — Sanchez digresses into turnover machine.

Oct 9: L 30-21 @ NE — Late rally falls short against rival Pats.

Oct 17: W 24-6 vs. Miami — Revis Island goes end to end for pick six.

Oct 23: W 27-21 vs. SD —Three TDs for Plaxico.

Buffalo Bills 5-2

Sept 11: W 41-7 @ K.C. — Turned raucous Arrowhead into their own personal playground.

Sept 18: W 38-35 vs. Oak — INT of Hail Mary on final play preserves win.

Sept 25: W 34-31 vs. NE — Overcome 21-point deficit to end 15-game losing streak vs Pats.

Oct 2: L 23-20 @ Cinci — “Letdown game” after two comeback wins.

Oct. 9: W 31-24 vs. Philly — Ballhawking D feasts on careless Vick.

Oct. 16: L 27-24 @ Giants — Late Fitzpatrick INT proves costly.

Oct. 30: W 23-0 vs. Wash — Came to T.O. with four sacks, leave with 14.


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