ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -Quarterback J.P. Losman was loose and upbeat for someone facing what could very well be his last chance at securing the Bills starting job.
``Come over here,'' Losman said, motioning to a couple of people as he sorted through a pile of mail at his locker earlier this week. One card - with big letters of ``Congratulations'' printed on the front - had caught his attention.
It was from a friend, sent as a message of encouragement and meant for Losman to open before - not after - Buffalo's 56-10 loss to New England last weekend.
``I could've used this,'' Losman said, shaking his head with a smile.
Then again, he noted, there's always this weekend.
Buffalo's game at Jacksonville on Sunday will mark Losman's fourth consecutive start - and in many ways the most important of his up-and-down four-year career with the Bills.
Buffalo (5-5) needs to beat the Jaguars (7-3) to realistically stay in the AFC playoff race. For Losman, who's already been benched once this season, a loss would likely lead to the Bills making the switch again to Trent Edwards, giving the rookie a chance to continue developing for the future.
``You're asking me if I feel like I'm on a short leash? I've been feeling that way for quite some time,'' Losman said. ``I'm just ready for whatever and ready to handle any situation given to me.''
Coach Dick Jauron said he doesn't consider this a make-or-break game for Losman. Yet he did leave the door open for a potential switch should Losman struggle.
``I don't know there's any reason for me to answer that question now,'' Jauron said. ``We'll just play this game and see where it goes.''
Jauron has previously said his decision is based on performance. If that's the case, Losman hasn't done much since producing a season-best 295 yards passing and engineering three touchdown drives in a 33-21 win against Cincinnati three weeks ago.
In his past two games, he's gone a combined 27-of-49 for 330 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Losman acknowledged he was worried he was going to be benched after getting off to a slow start at Miami two weeks ago, before eventually helping Buffalo pull out a 13-10 victory.
``I was like, `Here we go,' you know,'' he said. ``But you've got to get over it. You've got to shrug it off.''
The second of Buffalo's two 2004 first-round picks, Losman has shown only glimpses of consistency, mostly coming during the second half of last season when he helped Buffalo win five of its last nine games en route to a 7-9 finish.
In a 13-3 win at the New York Jets on Oct. 28 of this season, Losman produced two fourth-quarter scoring drives while filling in after Edwards sprained his throwing hand in the third quarter.
No one questions Losman's big-play, strong-arm ability. He's completed four of Buffalo's five passes of 30 yards or longer this season.
The knock against Losman is a lack of patience and an inability to check down to find open receivers if his first option is covered, something Edwards proved he was capable of doing in his four starts.
Receiver Lee Evans, who's backed Losman from the beginning, doesn't see any reason for the team to make a switch. He's not surprised, though, that even Losman considers the game at Jacksonville as an important personal test.
``I can understand why he feels that way,'' Evans said. ``If that's what gives him a little more sense of urgency, then that's the way he has to look at it.''
Notes: RB Marshawn Lynch, who missed the last game with a sprained left ankle, watched practice wearing a sweat suit from the sideline and is still unlikely to play this weekend. Lynch still had a slight limp, but did jog briefly. ... CB Jerametrius Butler (calf) did not take part in practice. ... S Donte Whitner (head), CB Terrence McGee (sore Achilles' tendon) and LB Angelo Crowell (foot) all went through full practices after getting limited time Wednesday.

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