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THREE-GAME STRETCH COULD SOLIDIFY BILLS AS CONTENDER

The Buffalo Bills have a chance to show they are a strong playoff contender as they enter a critical three-game home stretch this week.

The Bills host the Denver Broncos Sunday, followed by divisional games at Rich Stadium against Miami and New England.

If the 4-3 Bills can manage to win two out of the three, they will be in good position for a playoff spot at 6-4.

It won't be easy. Denver is 6-1, and the Dolphins and Patriots both are 5-2, a game ahead of the Bills in the AFC East.

If the Bills win one or none of the three, they will be scrambling to stay alive in the AFC playoff race.

Four of the Bills' final six games are on the road, and their final two games look especially difficult -- at home against Jacksonville and on the road against Super Bowl-champion Green Bay.

It figures to take nine or 10 victories to make the playoffs.

If the Bills stand 4-6 or 5-5 after their home stretch, they're going to need to win at least four of their last six to have any chance for the postseason.

That's why the Bills were especially happy to escape Indianapolis Monday night with a 9-6 victory.

"The way this league is going right now, you've got to take 'em any way you can get 'em," offensive lineman Jerry Ostroski said. "After what the Jets did this weekend (in upsetting New England) and Denver getting beat, the ball is in our court."

"We have to take our destiny in our own hands and don't worry about who else has won games or who has lost games," guard Ruben Brown said.

With all the tough games they have upcoming, the Bills knew a loss to the winless Colts would have haunted them the rest of the season.

"The game meant a tremendous amount to us," coach Marv Levy said. "We wanted to stay in the chase in the division race."

The Bills will have the benefit of a huge home crowd at least the next two weeks. Both games are on their way to being sellouts. Only single seats remain for each. There still are about 28,000 left for the Patriots game on Nov. 9.

The Bills have won 15 of their last 20 games at Rich. They have won three of their last nine road games.

The players, of course, are trying to keep a narrow focus on their season.

"The only thing I'm worried about is going right back to work and starting to study the game plan for Denver," Brown said.

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