By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson hasn't ruled out returning for this Sunday's season finale against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium, but his head coach isn't quite so confident.
Nelson was injured in the first half in this past Sunday's game against the New England Patriots in Orchard Park after taking a helmet to his rib cage while extending to make a catch. He did not return in the Bills' 34-3 loss.
Buffalo finishes its season against the New York Jets this Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
"I'm glad he's feeling better, but I don't think that status is going to change," Bills head coach Chan Gailey said of Nelson. "It isn't broken, but it's bad enough that he'll have a hard time playing this week. It would take a true miracle for him to get out there this week."
Nelson, whose path to re-entering the game against the Patriots was cut off by team trainers, said he'll continue treatment this week and make an assessment on his health shortly before the finale.
"I don't think that's set in stone yet," Nelson said. "We kind of came back and re-evaluated some things and I think the process now is heavy treatment, try and see where it goes and take it day-by-day. I hate missing games and I hate sitting out. I've never been injured and I don't like the sitting out part of it."
Gailey said the team will not place Nelson on season-ending injured reserve, though another receiver will be added to the active roster. The Bills have two wide receivers on the practice squad in Paul Hubbard and Bobby Williams.
"We'll probably get another receiver anticipating [Nelson] won't play," Gailey said.
Another receiver, Donald Jones, may miss Wednesday's practice after leaving Sunday's game with what appeared to be a head injury, though the Bills are hopeful he'll be able to return on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Gailey said there's a chance center Geoff Hangartner could play against New York after missing the last three games with a knee injury. Second- year guard Eric Wood has started in Hangartner's place in the middle of the offensive line.
"We're trying to be smart about that," Gailey said of Hangartner's injury. "[It's] the last game and we don't want to risk it maybe, but we'll see how it goes this week. He's got a great chance to be active this week and he certainly gives us the best chance to win, but exposing him to a whole ball game, I'm not sure about that."
JETS: Pain threshold and game situations may ultimately decide the amount of time New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez sees under center when his team ends the regular season this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
Sanchez tore cartilage in his right shoulder during a 22-17 defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15 and played through the injury in last weekend's 38-34 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. He threw for 269 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, completing 24-of-37 passes.
"Obviously, his health is the No. 1 priority," head coach Rex Ryan said. "I'm kind of [walking] that fine line. Because he is hot right now. We can't afford for him to take a dip. We need for him to stay at this level."
The Jets clinched an AFC playoff berth for the second straight season when Jacksonville was beaten in overtime by the Washington Redskins over the weekend. New York is now the conference's sixth seed, but could jump to No. 5 if it beats Buffalo, Pittsburgh loses at Cleveland and Baltimore wins against visiting Cincinnati this week.
Pending other results, the Jets will be on the road at Kansas City, Indianapolis or Jacksonville when the playoffs begin on the week of Jan. 8-9. A win in the postseason opener could send them to New England, Pittsburgh or Baltimore the following weekend.
Beyond that, New York could return home for the AFC Championship Game only if it enters as the No. 5 seed and matches up with a surviving No. 6 for a berth in the Super Bowl.
Last year the Jets advanced to the conference title game as a No. 5 seed and led at halftime before falling at No. 1 seed Indianapolis by a 30-17 score.
Sanchez's efforts against the Steelers and Bears were his second and third-most accurate passing games of the season. Combined, he's completed 65.2 percent of his throws in the past two weeks.
"Anytime when guys struggle, you can blame other people or you can say things aren't going right, but Mark hasn't," said Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson. "He's put it on himself. He's accepted coaching and how he's playing now is a product of that. He's going to continue to get better and understand more of the game plan and what [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] expects of him."
Sanchez said he'll defer to Ryan when the weekend comes.
"This isn't my 18th year, so I need as many reps as possible," he said. "But with the situation we're in with my shoulder, we want to see how it reacts. I'm with Coach with whatever he thinks is going to be best for me and the team.
"It's just a matter of playing and fighting through it."
Ryan said he could start Sanchez against the Bills and pull him early.
"That certainly will be discussed, for sure," said Ryan, who refused to say the quarterback was definitely out or in for the Bills game. "I'm really not clear now."
PATRIOTS: It's official. The AFC road to the Super Bowl will travel through Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The New England Patriots cemented that itinerary with Sunday's 34-3 win at Buffalo and will participate in the playoffs for the eighth time in 11 seasons under head coach Bill Belichick.
As a result, the discussion heading into this Sunday's regular-season wrap-up game against visiting Miami focuses on how much -- if any -- playing time the regulars will get against the Dolphins.
Wide receiver Wes Welker played in the 2009 season finale against Houston and sustained a serious knee injury that prompted several months of rehab.
"There's a lot of things that would go into that conversation, a lot of things we'll take into consideration," Belichick said. "There's some players individually whose situations are a little different than other guys. We'll do what's best for the football team, both individually and collectively."
New England last earned the No. 1 seed in 2007, when it went 16-0 in the regular season and defeated Jacksonville and San Diego in the playoffs en route to a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Last season, the Patriots were a No. 3 seed and lost, 33-14, in the opening round to No. 6 Baltimore.
Heading into the 2010 postseason tournament, New England is riding a seven-game win streak and has the league's most prolific scoring offense, averaging 32 points per game through 15 contests.
Against the Bills, quarterback Tom Brady established an NFL record by stretching his streak to 319 passes without an interception. For the season, he has 34 touchdowns and four picks, but gives much of the credit to a largely unsung offensive line.
"I think as much as everyone points at me for that, so much goes into what we're doing offensively with protection from the offensive line," Brady said. "I'm never forced into rushing throws. We've also been ahead in a lot of games so don't have to try to jam balls into tight spots, areas that you would if you were really desperate in the second half."
In the last seven games, the Patriots have 22 takeaways and not a single turnover. Buffalo, on the other hand, had seven turnovers against New England in Sunday's game.
"I think that's a pretty good stat just from an overall team basis," Brady said. "All the guys work pretty hard at it."
Another Brady streak has seen him win 27 consecutive regular-season games at home, dating back to a 2006 loss to the New York Jets. His last home loss of any kind was the aforementioned playoff game with the Ravens last winter.
New England was 5-3 at home in 2008, when Brady was lost for the season and underwent surgery after a Week 1 knee injury. The Patriots went 11-5 under quarterback Matt Cassel, but missed the playoffs after finishing second in the division behind Miami.
DOLPHINS: Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano was already on the hot seat heading toward the 2011 season, and a 34-27 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday did little to help his cause.
Sparano's fate ultimately lies in the hands of owner Stephen Ross, who inherited the coach when he completed his purchase of the franchise two years ago. The two men have talked by phone about a disappointing 2010 season which has the Dolphins at 7-8 heading to this Sunday's finale at New England, and Sparano is hoping for further discussions on his future and the team's direction.
"You've seen what's going on," Ross said to a reporter upon exiting Sun Life Stadium following Sunday's game. "I feel as frustrated as any fan."
The loss to the Lions left Miami 1-7 at home for 2010, matching the club's worst record as the host in franchise history. Conversely, the Dolphins are 6-1 on the road, including defeats of NFC contender Green Bay and the playoff-bound New York Jets. Miami's only road loss came Nov. 7 at Baltimore.
"I'm pretty confident that I can get it turned around," Sparano said. "I feel like I know these pieces pretty well."
The Dolphins will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, with the only exception being a 2008 AFC East title with then-starting quarterback Chad Pennington in Sparano's first season.
Pennington has spent much of the subsequent two seasons backing up Chad Henne, while Sparano has managed just a 14-17 record during that stretch.
"Obviously we're out of at-bats right now," Sparano said.
The Dolphins are last in the AFC in scoring at 17.7 points per game and have been especially inept at home, which helps explain the numerous empty seats at recent games. In fact, Miami has been largely overshadowed in fan support this season due to the arrival of free agent signee LeBron James to the NBA's Miami Heat.
Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland were hired by Bill Parcells after he took over Dolphins football operations three years ago. Parcells stepped down in September, however, and the availability of returning coaching candidates like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden factors in as well.
Sparano's contract runs through the 2011 season, and the players remain in his corner.
"We're a tight-knit team. Nothing can tear us apart," linebacker Channing Crowder said. "I talked to Tony on Sunday night on the phone, just shot the bull with him, saying, 'We're right here with you, babe. I'm going to go out there for the next 10 years, however long you're here, playing hard for you.'"
12/28 15:46:52 ET