ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -The Bills already understand the daunting challenge they face Sunday in hosting the dominating and undefeated New England Patriots. Now they might have to do so minus their top offensive threat: running back Marshawn Lynch.
Coach Dick Jauron on Wednesday all but ruled out Lynch from playing after the rookie missed practice because of a severely sprained left ankle.
``It's very sore right now and I would say we're not overly optimistic,'' Jauron said, referring to the chances of Lynch playing.
Jauron then raised concerns that the injury, which Lynch got in a 13-10 win at Miami on Sunday, might be severe enough to keep him out for more than one week.
Not having Lynch this weekend would be a substantial blow to the Bills (5-4), who have won four straight and five of six, and have come to rely on the spark the rookie has provided to an otherwise sputtering offense.
Lynch leads the team with six touchdowns and ranks fifth in the NFL with 751 yards rushing. With a touchdown passing, he's had a hand in seven of 10 offensive TDs the Bills have scored this season.
He played a particularly key role in helping the Bills overcome a 10-2 fourth-quarter deficit against Miami. After scoring on a 3-yard run and following it up with a 2-point conversion, Lynch was hurt while helping set up the decisive drive, capped by Rian Lindell's 34-yard field goal.
``We know he's a very unique player. He's got unique skills. And we hate to play the game without him,'' Jauron said. ``If he can't go, we've got to believe the guys we have can play and perform well.''
In place of Lynch, the Bills would go with a combination of rookie fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright and veteran backup Anthony Thomas.
Wright ranks second on the team with 76 yards rushing this season. He's appeared in eight games and has been used on special teams and giving Lynch an occasional breather.
Thomas has 10 carries for 12 yards and has mostly been used as a blocking back and in third-down situations.
``I'm just going to pick up the flag and show my part of what I can do,'' Wright said. ``I believe that I can step in and do the same things.''
Wright will have to, because the Bills hope to establish a ball-control attack to keep the Patriots pass-happy and very potent offense off the field.
That puts additional pressure on quarterback J.P. Losman, who will make his third consecutive start. Losman has been inconsistent since reclaiming the No. 1 job after rookie Trent Edwards sprained his throwing hand in a 13-3 win at the New York Jets on Oct. 28.
Losman helped the Bills produce a season-best in points and yards offense (479) in a 33-21 win over Cincinnati two weeks ago. But he struggled in producing 214 yards of offense against winless Miami.
Lynch's injury is the latest to affect the Bills who, earlier in the day, placed two more players - cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas (groin) and tight end Matt Murphy (torn left calf) - on injured reserve. That gives Buffalo 12 players, including three defensive starters, on the season-ending list.
Losing Thomas is most significant because he specialized in playing in pass situations and leaves the Bills with two reserves behind starters Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer.
One of the backups, Ashton Youboty, is ready to return after missing the past five games with an ankle injury.
The Bills are expected to compensate by doubling strong safety Donte Whitner as a third cornerback against a Patriots attack that's produced a league-leading 46 touchdowns, including 33 passing.
``Can we stop them? Yeah, I think it's doable,'' Jauron said. ``We have a lot of confidence in our players.''
Defensive end Aaron Schobel, the Bills' top pass-rusher, missed practice because of a stomach virus. Starting tight end Robert Royal was held out of practice after sustaining what the team calls a mild concussion last weekend.
The Bills bolstered their lineup by signing tight ends Brad Cieslak and Tim Massaquoi, and promoting offensive lineman Christian Gaddis from their practice squad.

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