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Finales may offer excitement

There was a time there oh, maybe around 0-8 -- when I began to dread the final few weeks of the Bills' season. Other than the prospect of a No. 1 draft pick, it was hard to feel enthusiastic about the prospect of slogging through the finish of another dull and meaningless year.

Now, I'm actually looking forward to the last two games. The idea of flying to Newark on New Year's Day even has a certain charm. I'm curious to see how the Chan Gang closes its remarkable second half, and eager to see if they can cap it off with its biggest upset in years.

They'll have two shots at it. We can thank the NFL for having the wisdom to backload the schedule with divisional matchups. The Bills' two most formidable opponents are waiting at the end. First, New England comes to town on Sunday. Then they make their first visit to the New Meadowlands Stadium to face the sinister Jets in the finale.

The players surely haven't lost any of their passion for the games. So we might as well go along for the ride. The Patriots still haven't clinched the top overall seed. The Jets will likely have something to play for. As Eric Wood said before the Miami win, the Bills have a further chance to make a name for themselves.

The Pats have won 14 in a row against them. No pressure there. Bill Belichick's crew is the AFC favorite for the Super Bowl. They usually play even better in the second meeting with the Bills. Tom Brady has been unstoppable in road games lately. He's never lost a game in the snow. So hope for good weather.

Back in September, in his first start of the year, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a terrific game in Foxborough. The Bills put 30 points on the board. It was the best performance by a Bills quarterback against the Pats since, well, since the last time they beat them in the 2003 opener here.

Imagine if Fitz had been the starting quarterback from the start of the season. The Bills might have won in Week Three. So there might actually be hope this week. The defense is getting better. They might hold Brady to 30 this time.

If Matt Flynn could toss three TD passes in New England and be driving toward a winning score when the clock ran out Sunday night, is it crazy to think Fitzpatrick could have a big day against them at the Ralph? You have to think Fitz is excited about a rematch with Brady, the presumed MVP.

"I'm always excited to watch the best quarterbacks in the league play," Fitzpatrick said Sunday. "So I'm already excited about it. We know going into a game like this, we've got to score points. They're an explosive offensive team. Their defense has been playing a lot better, so it'll be a good challenge for us."

The Bills have been gaining confidence and thriving on new challenges. The last two will be the biggest of all. They relished a chance to officially eliminate the Dolphins. Now they have a chance to snap the Patriots' six-game winning streak.

Depending on the outcome of next week's games, they could play spoiler against the Jets -- who still have a remote chance of winning the AFC East or missing the playoffs altogether.

Well, if you're going to endure a season like this one, it might as well end with games that matter. It's been awhile since the Bills had a true signature win.

The Colts had nothing to play for in last season's finale. Otherwise, they haven't beaten a team that finished a season with 11 wins since the upset in Cincinnati on the day before Christmas in 2005. That was also the last win for Tom Donahoe and Mike Mularkey in Buffalo, so it was hardly a rallying point.

Beating the Pats for the first time since '03 would be a huge achievement. I've learned by now to expect the worst. But I never thought I'd be this excited for the day after Christmas.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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