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The Bills were assured of finishing second in the AFC East when the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins, 38-31, Monday night, thereby determining most of next season's out-of-division opponents.

The NFC Central will provide Buffalo's out-of-conference competition: Chicago and Green Bay will visit Ralph Wilson Stadium and the Bills will play at Minnesota and Tampa Bay.

Buffalo is also scheduled to play host to the second-place team from the AFC Central -- either Jacksonville or Tennessee -- and the third-place team from the AFC West -- San Diego, Denver or Oakland.

The other two road games will be played against the top teams from the AFC West, Seattle and Kansas City.

Jerry Ostroski, a starter at center all year, may not be available when the Buffalo Bills close the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Ostroski sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the third quarter of the Bills' 13-10 overtime win at New England last Sunday, but was able to finish the game.

A magnetic resonance imaging exam came back negative, but Bills coach Wade Phillips said Ostroski's status is day-to-day.

"There's no cartilage tear, which is what (doctors) were looking for," Phillips said.

Ostroski spent most of Monday inside the training room. He said the knee is sore and has some looseness but was save from more serious injury by a brace.

"When you get hit from the side, it can really tear a knee to pieces," he said. "Thank God I was wearing the brace."

It's unlikely Ostroski will practice much this week, but he hasn't rule himself out for Sunday.

"I've been known to be a pretty quick healer," he said. "My leg is still attached, so I foresee me trying to play this weekend."

If Ostroski can't play, Dusty Zeigler will move from right guard to center and Jamie Nails would step in at right guard.

Zeigler, the starting center last year before losing his job in training camp, will get most if not all the snaps at center in practice. Backup center Bill Conaty also may get some work this week.

Phillips expects to get Antowain Smith back this week. The third-year running back has missed the last two games with turf toe.

Phillips praised the play of rookie cornerback Antoine Winfield, who made his first start against the Patriots. He was credited with only one tackle but displayed the coverage skills that made him a first-round draft pick.

"Antoine Winfield stepped up," Phillips said. "I said last week that I thought he would. But until they do it in a ballgame, you don't know. Shawn Jefferson (New England's second-leading receiver) didn't catch a ball in the game and he played on his side most of the time. That says a lot right there."

Never lacking in confidence, Winfield was not surprised by his performance.

"I prepared myself with a lot of film study," he said. "I kind of knew what they were going to do and I just tried to do my thing. I'm a playmaker, and I think I made my share. Hopefully, I can continue to build on this."

Defensive tackle Pat Williams didn't earn a game ball against New England, but you could have made an argument for him.

Williams backs up nose tackle Ted Washington, but Williams was on the field for three of the Bills' last five defensive series. He didn't disappoint as he responded with big plays.

On the Patriots' last possession in overtime, Williams dropped running back Harold Shaw for a 2-yard loss, sacked quarterback Drew Bledsoe for minus-6 yards and tackled Bledsoe after a short gain on consecutive plays. The Bills took the ensuing punt and drove for the winning field goal.

"Pat Williams has made plays all year for us," Phillips said. "He got a sack when Bledsoe was already on the ground, but he knocked the center into Bledsoe to cause him to fall. I'm real happy with the way Pat plays."

Not that the NFL is fearful of Y2K, but just in case there are any computer glitches, the league has ordered teams to arrive at their destinations before Jan. 1. That means the Colts will come to Buffalo on Friday instead of the customary Saturday before the game.

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