THE FIFTH DOWN; Bills (5-5) at Jets ( 5-5)

1 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Matchup to Watch: –Jets Receivers –vs. Bills’ secondary

Despite the Jets’ inconsistent passing game, this is, in theory, a favorable matchup for them. Buffalo placed the starting cornerback Terrence McGee on injured reserve, and his potential replacement, Aaron Williams, is a rookie coming off a serious collarbone injury. The Jets victimized this unit on Nov. 6, when Santonio Holmes drew two pass-interference calls and Plaxico Burress picked on the nickel back Leodis McKelvin, who did not play on defense last Sunday against Miami.

Number to Watch: 38.8

The percentage of Buffalo’s offense provided by running back Fred Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve last week. Think the Bills will miss him? Taking over will be C.–J. Spiller, their first-round pick in 2010, who has yet to make much of an impact in the N.F.L. Spiller forces the Jets to adjust a few of their packages, but their goal remains what it was on Nov. 6: stop the run and disrupt Buffalo’s short passing game.

Quotation of the Week

”I’m sure the brothers talked.”

Buffalo Coach CHAN GAILEY, when asked whether the Bills’ last two opponents, Dallas and Miami, had borrowed from the Jets’ defensive blueprint from their Nov. 6 meeting. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, and Jets Coach Rex Ryan are twins.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.


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CJ Has Titans Run Game Rolling in Beating Bills

The Titans ground game is sprouting legs now that Johnson has shown more signs that he’s re-emerged from what had been a two-month slumber.

CJ rushed for 153 yards and scored twice in securing a 23-17 win over the slumping Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It’s the third time in four games Johnson’s had at least 100 yards, and it’s no coincidence that the Titans have won all three times to climb into a logjam of five teams with 7-5 records.

“At the beginning of the season, the passing game carried us, and now it’s time for the running game to step it up,” said Johnson, who has 486 of his 852 yards rushing in his past four games. “The offensive line and everything is hitting on all cylinders right now, and hopefully we can continue to keep this momentum going.”

Johnson doubled his season touchdown total by scoring from 48 and 4 yards on consecutive possessions in getting the Titans out to a 17-7 lead.

Rob Bironas hit three field goals, including a 44-yarder to make it 23-10 with nine minutes left. Hasselbeck was efficient, going 16 of 25 for 140 yards passing. And the Titans defense generated two turnovers, and forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three straight incompletions to end the Bills last drive in the final minute.

The praise was left to Johnson, who’s electric running style is sparking the Titans’ confidence.

“That’s the CJ that I know,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “If there is a time you want someone to peak, it’s now. … It’s going to be scary when he starts having some 250-yard games. I can’t wait for that.”

The Bills (5-7) have very little left to look forward to but playing games for pride, in the midst of a five-game skid that has all but mathematically knocked them out of the hunt. A month after Buffalo was battling New England and the Jets for top spot in the AFC East, the team’s now in attempting to hold off Miami (4-8) for last place in the division.

“It’s disappointing. I’ve never lost five in a row,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “This is new territory for me and I’m sure for a lot of guys. It doesn’t feel good. They don’t like it and I don’t like it.”

C.J. Spiller rushed for a career-best 83 yards and scored on a 35-yard scamper in which he recovered his own fumble just before sliding out of the end zone. Stevie Johnson made the game close, scoring on a 2-yard touchdown catch with 2:58 remaining.

At least Johnson, this time, kept his TD celebration in check, a week after being criticized, flagged 15 yards and fined by the NFL $10,000 for a questionable display in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets.

“Last week was last week,” said Johnson, who had five catches for 52 yards. “We moved on to the Titans and we tried to get this W and we came up short.”

Two turnovers — fumbles by Fitzpatrick and tight end Scott Chandlers — led directly to the Titans scoring 10 points.

Though the Bills’ defense limited Tennessee to converting two of 11 third-down chances, Buffalo couldn’t contain the Titans’ running attack in allowing a season-worst 187 yards.

The Titans prepare for their next big test in hosting Drew Brees and the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints next week.

“We’ve got some extra studying to do,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I might not do another interview this week, because I’ll be watching film.”

They’ll at least have some confidence and momentum going into that game in having strung together two straight wins for the first time since a 3-1 start.

“A lot of these guys are growing confidence that wasn’t there from the beginning,” receiver Nate Washington said. “We are starting to realize we have a good chance at being a great football team here — not just good, but great.”

Notes: Johnson’s 48-yard TD run was his longest since scoring a 76-yard touchdown in the 2010 season opener. … Fitzpatrick’s TD pass gave him 20 this season, becoming the first Bills player to throw that many in consecutive years since Jim Kelly did it in 1994-95. … Washington did not finish the game to rest a sore left ankle. Starting CB Jason McCourty’s status is uncertain after he sustained a concussion in the first quarter. … The Bills honored Allen Wilson, longtime beat writer for The Buffalo News, who died Saturday of leukemia. Flowers and a framed picture of “Big Al” were placed at his seat in the press box. Bills safety and captain George Wilson spoke for the players in issuing his condolences, calling the writer a “good man” and “genuine guy.”

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Bills Forced to Juggle O-Line

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. Andy Levitre knows the rash of injuries along the offensive line isn’t anything to be taken lightly. But he’s aware the sky isn’t falling either.

When the Bills (2-10) host the (5-7) on Sunday, they’ll be sporting a new center and right guard. That’s because center Geoff Hangartner and right guard Kraig Urbik sustained knee injuries in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota.

That’s caused a domino effect. Starting right guard Eric Wood, who returns after missing two games because of an ankle injury, shifts to center, and backups Ed Wang and Cordaro Howard will split right-guard duties.

“There’s definitely a change, but just because someone goes down doesn’t mean everyone’s going to play terrible,” left guard Levitre said Wednesday. “You want to have your best guys on the field, but injuries sometimes hamper that. So it hurts the team as a whole, but it’s not going to ruin everybody’s day. You have to fight through adversity, and we’ve had a lot of that this year.”

Wood isn’t too concerned about sliding to center. He played the position at Louisville, and has kept sharp throughout the season by snapping the ball while the special teams do their drills in practices.

“The first couple of days will be a challenge getting everybody jelling,” Wood said. “We’ll do all right. We’ve got guys that know what they’re doing that are hopping in. I don’t think it’ll be too rough of a transition. There’s some little nuances at that position that are different than any other spot. Starting the play with your hands between your legs is one of them.”

With the revamped line, the Bills may be forced to use more of a short passing game as well as utilize a ground attack led by Fred Jackson.

“We have to try and get on the same page,” Jackson said. “The best thing we can do throughout this week is try to figure each other out. I’ve never been behind (Wood) at center, so it’s going to be one of those things where the more work we can get in this week, the more communication in the film room, and the more we can understand what everyone’s thinking, the better we’ll be.”

“You get to know guys throughout the season and we’re meeting all the time,” said Levitre, who replaced Hangartner vs. the . “It’s not like I’m playing with somebody I never met before, and never talked to. You develop relationships throughout the weeks.”

The Bills had been relatively healthy along their offensive line this season except for right tackle, where they’re on their third starter. The cohesiveness and continuity, though, has now taken a hit that they must be able to absorb and shake off if they want to snap a two-game losing streak following a two-game winning stretch.

“The moving parts up there always makes it tough,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was sacked once, hit five times, lost two of three fumbles, and threw an interception against Minnesota. “We have to take advantage of these practices and meeting-room time. It’s all about communication and getting everybody on the same page, and from there hoping we get the job done.”

Notes: Cornerback Terrence McGee returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last two games because of a nerve problem behind his knee. The injury has kept him sidelined for eight games. … Fullback Corey McIntyre missed Wednesday’s practice. … The Bills rank 18th in the league with 24 sacks allowed through 12 games. Last season, they gave up 46 sacks, which tied Washington for fourth-highest allowed in the NFL. … Levitre has started all 28 games since being drafted in the second round in 2009.

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