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Delicate balance Players and coaches maintain their focus is on ending the season with a win against the Jets. Fans, though, realize a loss might be better for the franchise come April's NFL draft.

Has anybody in the Buffalo Bills' locker room given any thought to the idea the team might be better off losing today's season finale against the New York Jets?

"No. Not at all," Bills running back Fred Jackson said. "We play for wins and losses, not for draft order."

"It's all hands on deck to win the game," said Bills coach Chan Gailey.

No doubt, not a single Bills player or coach could look themselves in the mirror, call themselves a professional, and prefer to lose to the Jets in what amounts to a nearly meaningless game at New Meadowlands Stadium.

That won't prevent many Bills fans from watching the NFL scoreboard today and projecting how the results affect the Bills' standing in the 2011 NFL draft.

The Bills could finish anywhere from second to ninth in the draft order, depending on what happens.

Buffalo (4-11) enters today's action No.‚4 in the draft order, behind Carolina (2-13), Denver (4-11) and Cincinnati (4-11).

The tiebreaker for the draft order is strength of schedule. The team with the easier schedule, in case of a tie, picks sooner.

Denver plays host to San Diego. Cincinnati plays host to Baltimore.

Here is the strength of schedule for the three four-win teams: Denver (.504), Cincinnati (.579), Buffalo (.583). The only way Denver would pick later than the Bills or Bengals would be to beat San Diego and finish with a better record. Buffalo's foes have won one more game than Cincinnati's.

So the Bills' path to the No. 2 pick goes like this: Denver beats San Diego; and either Cincinnati beats Baltimore or the Bengals lose to the Ravens while Indianapolis beats Tennessee, Jacksonville loses to Houston and Kansas City loses to Oakland. A Bengals loss coupled with those other results would give the Bills and Bengals a strength-of-schedule tie and force a coin flip to decide who gets the earlier pick.

Who knew the season's last weekend could hold such suspense?

Of course, all those scenarios are based on a Bills loss to the Jets. Today's game, however, does not have major playoff implications for the Jets. They will be on the road in the first round of the playoffs as the fifth or sixth seed (probably No. 6). They will probably open at either Kansas City or Indianapolis.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will test his sore knee before the game. If he can't play, Brian Brohm will make his first start of the season. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been playing with a sore shoulder for weeks. He's expected to start today, but give way to No. 2 QB Mark Brunell at some point. The Jets likely will pull the plug early on several other key starters, as well.

The Bills could use any assistance they can get from the Jets, who dominated the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 3. New York won, 38-14. The Jets held the ball for 40:29 and outgained the Bills, 444-223.

New York rushed for 273 yards against the Bills that day.

"That offensive line is a very strong, physical offensive line," Gailey said. "The thing about the Jets [is that] you know it's going to be a physical game no matter what. If you go out there and stop them from running the first four or five times, don't expect they're going to say, 'Oh well, we've just got to throw it the whole time now.' They're going to keep trying to pound the ball with that strong offensive line and they're going to keep trying to run it. You know they are. So, you can't discourage them from continuing to be a physical, hard-nose, running football team."

If the Bills win today, they could drop numerous spots in the draft order.

The Bills have played a tougher schedule than the other NFL teams with five wins. Those include: Arizona, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and Cleveland.

Arizona meets San Francisco today, so one of those teams will likely get to six wins. The other games of five-win teams: Dallas at Philadelphia, Jacksonville at Houston, Minnesota at Detroit and Pittsburgh at Cleveland.

There are two noteworthy individual milestones within reach for the Bills.

Jackson needs 108 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards for a second straight season. Receiver Stevie Johnson needs one touchdown catch for his 11th of the year, which would tie the franchise record set by Bill Brooks in 1995.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com