In the NFL coaches constantly preach to their players to take one game at a time. The game that has perhaps more at stake for the Bills than any other this season is in front of them now.
Buffalo faces Jacksonville on the road in a pivotal AFC conference clash Sunday. The Jaguars at 7-3 have a two game lead on the Bills (5-5) for an AFC Wild Card spot with six games to play counting this weekend's contest. With a win Buffalo can cut Jacksonville's lead in half and grab a valuable head-to-head tiebreaker. A loss and the Bills are unlikely to catch Jacksonville before season's end.
The players in Buffalo's locker room are keenly aware of what is on the line.
"We can't let them go up three games on us because it's difficult to battle back three games down with five to play," said Donte Whitner. "We feel like this is a must win for us this weekend and we're going to treat it like that."
"We can't look ahead, but you have to look ahead from the standpoint of seeing what's at stake at this next game," said J.P. Losman.
Jacksonville (7-3), Tennessee (6-4) and Cleveland (6-4) are the three teams not leading their respective divisions that sit ahead of the Bills in the conference standings. Buffalo has the benefit of playing two of those three teams over the final six weeks with the Bills also traveling to Cleveland on Dec. 16.
But without a win over Jacksonville their chances for the postseason will be dramatically reduced.
Surprisingly the Jaguars have been a better team on the road than at home this season. Jacksonville is an impressive 4-1 on the road with wins at Denver, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. They're 3-2 at home following their most recent win over San Diego (24-17).
Still Whitner isn't expecting anything to come easy against one of the more physical teams in the NFL.
"It's not going to be easy to go down there and get a win. Jacksonville came up here last year and lost to us at home," said Whitner. "They have a good football team and they're having a good season and they don't want to let us go down there and beat them. So it's going to be tough."
Buffalo won last year's meeting between the clubs thanks to a 42-yard Rian Lindell field goal as time expired (27-24).
But the Bills offense has scored more than one offensive touchdown in a game just twice all season as the team averages just over 15 points per game. Jacksonville averages almost 21 (20.7).
In their last two road victories, Buffalo's offense has managed just 13 points. In their last two outings the offense has provided just 23 total points. They know they'll have to be better against a Jaguars defense that stands seventh in the league in points allowed.
"The last two weeks really weren't as good as we wanted to be from an offensive standpoint," admitted Losman. "I just want to bounce back from last week, come out smoking and show everybody that we're able to regroup and bounce back extremely fast one week later."
The Bills say the lopsided loss at the hands of the Patriots is in the rearview mirror, but they don't deny that it has added fuel to their fire moving forward.
"We do get added motivation from it because the way we lost on national TV, 50-plus to 10, that's tough," said Whitner. "We have to do some regrouping around here because we have a must-win game on Sunday and if we go and win that football game people are pretty much going to forget about the loss last week."
And Losman believes a win over Jacksonville would put them right back where they were when they rattled off four straight wins a month ago.
"It's going to give us a chance to give (ourselves) a spark on this little run that we need to get on if we're thinking playoffs around here which we are," said Losman. "It starts this week and it is the most important game of my career, for this team and for this season right now. We need to get this win streak started back up again."