Start times of two NFL games pushed back

If you like to watch football played in the snow, you’ll love

Sunday’s NFL schedule.

The storm that swept across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast,

dumping more than a foot of the white stuff in some areas, will

turn many games into a slip-sliding exercise.

Outdoor-stadium teams hosting games include the Buffalo

Bills, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens.

The Eagles-49ers game in Philadelphia and the Bears-Ravens

game in Baltimore had their starting times changed from 1 to 4:15

p.m. ET to accommodate fans and allow more time for city and

stadium personnel to clear streets and walkways in and around the


Both games will be televised on FOX.

The Bears’ scheduled flight to Baltimore on Friday never got

off the ground, as travel was crippled. The team didn’t make it to

Baltimore until 10:45 p.m. ET Saturday.

At the Meadowlands, the Jets have revived playoff hopes after

three wins in a row over struggling opponents. They’ll have

quarterback Mark Sanchez back after a sprained right knee kept him

out last week.

The Jets (7-6) are tied with Miami for second in the AFC

East, one game behind New England, although they don’t hold

tiebreakers over either team.

A wild-card berth might be the Jets’ more likely route to the

postseason, but they may have to win their remaining three games

against Atlanta (6-7), unbeaten Indianapolis and AFC North-leading

Cincinnati to have a chance. New York is battling seven teams for

two wild-card spots.

“They know how I feel,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Our official

stance is it’s improbable right now. That’s the way everybody will

approach it right now. Our stance is we believe we’re going to win

every game. That’s the way it’s been since Day 1.”

Sanchez was medically cleared by team doctors after

practicing for the third straight day Friday, when he took all of

the snaps with the first-team offense.

Sanchez, hurt in a 19-13 win over Buffalo on Dec. 3 after a

headfirst slide, will wear custom-fitted braces on both knees. He

already had been wearing one on the left from a previous injury.

“It’s going to be a Joe Namath throwback game for Mark,” Ryan

said Friday. “He slid right in front of me in practice to make sure

I knew he was ready to go. He feels confident.”

In Orchard Park, N.Y., the New England Patriots hope to

finally earn their first true road win of 2009.

There’s probably no opponent the Patriots would rather visit

than the Buffalo Bills, losers of 12 straight overall to the

Patriots and trying to avoid clinching their fifth straight losing

season Sunday.

New England (8-5) spent last week fielding questions about a

defense that had struggled in back-to-back defeats and four players

who had been sent home from practice after showing up late for a

team meeting.

Despite those distractions, the Patriots beat Carolina 20-10

to keep a one-game lead over both Miami and the Jets as they try to

reclaim the division they won five straight times from 2003-07.

New England may be without perhaps its most important player

on defense, however, after standout nose tackle Vince Wilfork left

Sunday’s game with a foot injury. His status is unclear, as is that

of fellow defensive lineman Ty Warren, who hurt his ankle against

the Panthers.

That could further weaken a defense that has struggled,

especially against the pass and on the road, where the Patriots are

0-5 aside from a win over Tampa Bay in London.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles are looking to win a fifth

straight game for the first time since 2006, and get a step closer

to a division title when they host the 49ers, who need to reverse

their road woes to maintain any realistic playoff hopes.

Philadelphia (9-4) had dropped two straight and three of five

after a 31-23 loss at San Diego on Nov. 15, falling into a

second-place tie with the New York Giants while Dallas held a

one-game division lead.

Four wins later, both the Giants and Cowboys are looking up

at the Eagles. Philadelphia has put up more points each week during

its streak – its longest since winning the final five games of 2006

– after earning a sweep of New York with a 45-38 win Sunday night

at Giants Stadium to move to 4-1 in the division.

A victory Sunday plus either a Giants loss or tie or a

Cowboys win or tie would put Philadelphia in the playoffs.

In Baltimore, a second consecutive game against a struggling

NFC North opponent might be what the Baltimore Ravens need to win

consecutive games for the first time in nearly three months and

remain in the mix for an AFC wild-card berth.

The Ravens look to build off their most complete effort of

the season when they host the reeling Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 166 yards on 13 carries and

the Ravens set team records for rushing touchdowns (five) and total

yardage (548) in a 48-3 home rout of Detroit last Sunday.

The Ravens (7-6) are in the wild-card mix with Jacksonville,

Miami, Denver and the New York Jets, but they have alternated wins

and losses in their last seven contests. Baltimore hasn’t won

consecutive games since opening 3-0.

“We know what we have to do,” said running back Willis

McGahee, who ran for two TDs last weekend. “We know we have to win

the rest of our games, regardless of what happens.”

Baltimore has a favorable final stretch to make that happen

with Chicago (5-8) in town, followed by road games against slumping

Pittsburgh and Oakland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.