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Losman may upstage hot rookie

There's virtually no chance of the Bills-Tennessee game being televised, which is a damn shame. In fact, under different circumstances it would have been a great one for the league to switch to Sunday night, so the country could watch two surprising young teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Vince Young, the Titans' rookie quarterback, is the talk of the league, a national magazine cover boy. Young, who lifted Texas over USC in last year's college title game, has led the Titans to five straight victories and confounded the critics who said he'd struggle to adjust to the NFL.

It's always exciting when a young star makes his first trip to town. I don't know quite what to expect from Young. But I'm not sure Young knows what he's getting into, either. There's something about Ralph Wilson Stadium in winter -- with an aroused home crowd -- that brings out the worst in a visiting quarterback.

"[Young] has played on a lot of big stages," said Bills coach Dick Jauron. "But we do have a unique place to play football; there's no doubt about it."

Jauron also has an improving defense, which hasn't allowed a touchdown in seven quarters and has yielded just 15.6 points a game during a 5-2 run. The Bills are soft against the run. But they've been disciplined and opportunistic against the pass in their Cover 2, refusing to give up the big plays that decide games.

Young is a more mature passer than his critics realized. Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he doesn't have to scale back his game plans for the kid. He said Young is a quick study, a poised pocket presence. And as the Texans found out two weeks ago, Young is an extraordinary runner and clutch performer.

But let's not get carried away. Young is still a rookie, prone to rookie mistakes. He has completed 51.4 percent of his passes. He has 10 TDs and 11 interceptions. His longest completion is 39 yards. During the Titans' five-game winning streak, he has thrown for a modest 163 yards a game.

Last week, in a 24-17 win at Jacksonville, Young threw for 85 yards. The Titans were 0 for 8 on third down. The Jaguars outgained them, 396-98. Tennessee won with three long defensive TDs. I wonder if anyone patronized Young by saying he "managed the game," the way we did for J.P. Losman early this year.

Oh yeah, Losman. While the nation has been gushing about Young these past few weeks, Losman has quietly been one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Losman is now the ninth-rated QB in the NFL -- ahead of Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, among others. Losman has completed 63.4 percent of his passes. He has 17 TDs and 10 interceptions, so the ratings aren't exactly meaningless.

Losman still has a lot to prove. It's silly to suggest he's answered all his critics after a five-game run. It takes years for quarterbacks to prove themselves in the NFL. Ask Vick, who is still struggling to prove himself. Or Roethlisberger, who has fallen on hard times after winning the Super Bowl.

Young hasn't truly arrived as an NFL player, either. The league is too good for a rookie to figure it all out this soon. It's hard to imagine Young coming into this stadium, at this time of year, against this defense, at this stage of his career -- and having a big game.

I've seen Hall of Fame quarterbacks walk out of the Ralph in late December, shaking their heads in despair and disbelief. My advice for Young is hope for an inspired performance by Travis Henry.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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