|National Football League|
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By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- The surprising New York Jets have tied an NFL record by alternating wins and losses through their first nine games.
Facing the struggling Buffalo Bills could help them finally make it two in a row.
Looking to continue their quest for a playoff spot, the visiting Jets go for an eighth victory in nine matchups against the Bills on Sunday.
Projected by many to finish near the bottom of the AFC, New York (5-4) has instead managed to hold its own. After watching several contending teams lose last weekend, the Jets come out of their bye with a one-game lead for the second wild-card spot.
"I think we have a great opportunity in front of us and that's where the excitement lies because we know that as a team, our best football is ahead of us," said rookie Geno Smith, whose 13 interceptions are tied for third-most in the league.
"We have been inconsistent and we've shown flashes of being a good team, but we've also had moments where we haven't looked so good. We know that as long as we clean up our mistakes and we handle the things that we can control, we'll have an opportunity."
The Jets followed a 30-27 overtime win over East-leading New England with a 49-9 loss at Cincinnati in Week 8, but they got back on track Nov. 3 by beating NFC South-leading New Orleans 26-20.
Chris Ivory ran for a season-high 139 yards and a touchdown against his former team as New York outgained the Saints 198-41 on the ground. The Jets intercepted Drew Brees twice and made it through the game without a turnover, improving to 5-2 when committing two or fewer.
"We embrace the challenges," tight end Konrad Reuland said. "We truly believe we can beat any team we line up against."
The Jets have to be feeling good about posting back-to-back wins given their recent domination of the Bills (3-7). New York, which won 27-20 on Sept. 22 behind Smith's season-high 331 passing yards and three total TDs, have averaged 29.3 points in taking seven of eight from Buffalo.
Coach Rex Ryan, though, knows it would be foolish to take the Bills lightly.
"Nobody's thinking about, 'Hey, let's run seven in a row off,'" Ryan said. "The only way to get there is to handle your business, and that's what we have to do."
One player Ryan is hoping can help the Jets end their inconsistency is Ed Reed, who agreed to terms Thursday one day after being waived by the Houston Texans. The nine-time Pro Bowl safety - who criticized Texans teammates and coaches after Sunday's 27-24 loss at Arizona - was one of the anchors of Ryan's defense during his time as coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, and can only help a Jets pass defense currently ranked 26th in the league at 268.9 yards allowed per game and tied for 27th with only five interceptions.
"I don't think I'd be here if they didn't think that," he said after his first practice with the Jets on Thursday. "I know what I know. I know how I feel and I know what I've put in my offseason workouts. I'm ready to go. You'll see.
"You guys can be the judge of it."
It's uncertain just how much offseason hip surgery affected the 35-year-old Reed, who missed the first two games of the season recovering and had been recently demoted to the second string in Houston. He had 16 tackles in seven games and failed to add to his 61 career INTs in his brief time in Houston.
Buffalo has dropped three straight and five of six, losing 23-10 at Pittsburgh last Sunday. Rookie EJ Manuel returned from a sprained right knee and went 22 of 39 for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Bills were held to a season-low 227 yards of total offense.
"The kid missed four weeks and just came back. He's trying his best," coach Doug Marrone said. "He's going through his footwork too quick and not (slowing) down to see things develop as quick. That happens to young quarterbacks.
"Do we expect him to play better than he did last game? Absolutely. Will he play better? Yes. Yes he will."
Manuel could be in for another long day with two of his favorite targets sidelined. Stevie Johnson, leading the team with 41 receptions and 471 receiving yards, is out with a groin injury, and rookie wideout Robert Woods will miss a second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.
The Jets expect to have veteran Santonio Holmes (hamstring) available for the first time since Week 4. Holmes had five catches for 154 yards and a TD in September's meeting, and he's scored in four of his last five games against the Bills.
New York is getting tight end Kellen Winslow back after he served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Winslow is tied for the team lead with two touchdown catches.
The Jets will also be looking for big things from wideout David Nelson with Jeremy Kerley (elbow) unlikely to play. Nelson, whose three-year career in Buffalo came to an end after the Bills decided not to tender him a contract as a restricted free agent this offseason, is looking forward to Sunday.
"Anybody who tells you when they play an old team or a team that cut them, that it's just another game, is lying to you," said Nelson, who signed Oct. 2. "This is definitely more than just another game for me. It's going to be an emotional game. It's going to be a fun game. This game holds a little more in my heart than most others."
Nelson posted 80-yard efforts against the Patriots and Bengals before catching one pass for 19 yards versus the Saints.
Updated November 15, 2013