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The Buffalo Bills were awaiting final word on the extent of quarterback Jim Kelly's knee injury today.

The only question seems to be whether Kelly can recover soon enough to play in the playoffs, because it's certain the NFL's top-rated passer is finished for the rest of this regular season.

A team spokesman said an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan of Kelly's left knee is scheduled today. The MRI will show whether there is a tear in the medial collateral ligament.

The extent of any tear probably will determine whether Kelly can come back this season.

Kelly said the knee was sore and swollen Sunday. He was looked at by the team's training and medical staff. Kelly expressed hope he would miss only the regular-season games and none of Buffalo's post-season games.

"Hopefully, I'll be back in time for the playoffs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed," said Kelly, who was injured when his own teammate, tackle Will Wolford, fell against the knee in the second quarter of Saturday's 17-13 win over the New York Giants.

Kelly made the statement on NBC-TV.

Whether Kelly indeed would be back for the Bills' first playoff game may depend on whether they draw a bye in the first round of the playoffs and would not play in post-season until Jan. 12-13, which would allow him four weeks of recovery. To do that, Buffalo would at least have to wrap up the AFC East championship. The Bills can do that by beating the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Rich Stadium.

If the Bills make the playoffs as a wild-card team, they would play the week of Jan. 5-6.

Today, the Bills start preparing for the Dolphins and getting Kelly's backup, Frank Reich, ready for his first 1990 appearance as the starter.

With Reich at quarterback, the Bills had only one field goal in six possessions in Saturday's victory over the Giants. The important thing, though, was that Reich made no major mistakes with the Bills nursing a narrow lead.

History suggests Reich will be more effective with a week of preparation. As a starter rather than a relief man, Reich turned in some impressive numbers in three games last season against the Los Angeles Rams, the New York Jets and the Dolphins. In those three games, he completed 40 of 66 passes (73 percent) for 482 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.

Reich was much more impressive in those three regular-season starts last year than in most of his appearances in preseason games.

"In preseason," Reich said, "the game plan is not precise and you don't work as hard at the game plan itself. I'm a little bit better when I watch a lot of film on a team and have a structured game plan, and I think it helps playing with 44 other great players."

Reich promised he would be more game-ready for Miami than he was against the Giants.

"There's no doubt," he said. "Obviously, I'll probably get most of the snaps and Gale (Gilbert) will get some work, too.

"Hopefully, I'll be better next week and I won't miss those easy throws I should have made (Saturday). I know there were one or two run audibles I missed that I should have audibled out of the play when they were in a specific defense. Hopefully, I won't make those same mistakes next week."

The Bills have had remarkable success all season with Kelly running the shotgun offense with no huddle. The no-huddle produced both Buffalo scoring drives Saturday. Reich said he has no problem with the no-huddle and that its success does not depend entirely on Kelly.

"It's not built around one player, although Jim is a great player," Reich said. "I feel very confident with it because the no-huddle is lot of short passes, a lot of just reading the defense, and I think that's one of my strong points. I feel real comfortable with that."

Reich will get support from Kelly, who said he intends to stay involved with the team and attend team meetings.

"I want to make sure Frank Reich does what he's supposed to do and help Frank wherever I can," Kelly said.

Bills coach Marv Levy was philosophical about having to go on without Kelly.

"We'll get ready to win however we can -- try to win however we can," Levy said.

He insisted the Bills won't be limited in their offensive planning with Reich, rather than Kelly, at quarterback.

"He (Reich) can handle the whole offense," Levy said. "We'll structure a plan more fashioned toward the opponent we play, not on what Frank can do."

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