Week Two is a little early for any NFL team to be in a win-or-else situation.
Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets can't help but feel a certain degree of desperation for tonight's nationally televised game in Ralph Wilson Stadium (8:20 p.m., ESPN, Ch. 49; 96.9 FM).
Each team stumbled into the season last Sunday by losing to an AFC East opponent. Besides taking some luster away from tonight's long-anticipated showdown, the Bills' embarrassing 31-14 loss at Indianapolis and the Jets' stunning 30-28 defeat against New England mean the team that loses suddenly finds itself 0-2.
Although both clubs know very well that such starts are not the end of the world -- the Bills went from 0-3 to the playoffs last year while the Jets went from 0-2 to the AFC Championship Game -- they realize being 0-2 in the division is an especially deep hole from which to escape.
"Our backs are to the wall here," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "We need to win at home."
"I wouldn't say (we're) desperate yet," said quarterback Doug Flutie. "But the attitude is that we have to win this game. We don't want to be in a position where we're chasing again like we were all last year."
As bad as things looked for the Bills in the RCA Dome last week, the Jets experienced a far more devastating loss in Giants Stadium when quarterback Vinny Testaverde suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles' tendon. Rick Mirer, who just joined the Jets last month, gets the start tonight.
The Jets lost two other key players that day, third-down running back Leon Johnson to a season-ending knee injury and defensive tackle Jason Ferguson to an injured ankle. With wide receiver Wayne Chrebet out with a broken foot and tight end Eric Green out with a sore neck, the Jets don't look nearly as threatening as when they beat the Bills twice last year.
"We have got to play a whole lot better as a defense," Jets safety Victor Green said. "Our goal has to be: If they don't score, they don't win. We always believe we can't give up too many points and expect to win. And our offense is wounded now, so we have to come through."
Buffalo's defense also is seeking to redeem itself after a dreadful showing against the Colts.
"When you lose the way we lost in Indianapolis, you need to change some things," defensive end Phil Hansen said. "We're not going to just say, 'Oh, that was just a one-time deal.' We've got to make some improvements."