Jets' Mark Sanchez to start Sunday

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Despite a sore shoulder, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been at the top of his game in recent weeks. Head coach Rex Ryan is wary of resting a hot hand so he has decided not to give his young quarterback the week off against Buffalo even though the Jets are already in the playoffs.

Ryan said Sanchez practiced well on Thursday, and that cemented Ryan's decision to start him.

"He looked good, had some on the ball and all that stuff, so we'll go ahead and start Mark this game," Ryan said. "How long he plays, we'll just determine that as the game goes. But he will start for us."

Sanchez has played well in recent weeks despite a shoulder injury, which could be due to minor cartilage damage. After the loss in Chicago last week, Ryan was inclined to rest Sanchez against Buffalo. On Monday he backed away from that idea, and on Wednesday said he was still on the fence. But after practice Thursday Ryan made the call.

"He would not be out there if we didn't think he was healthy," Ryan said.

On Wednesday, Sanchez said his shoulder was feeling "all right," and that he thought it was important to play or, if not, to practice as though he were going to play.

"I think all of us on offense, we've kind of found a good rhythm here and it's important to watch the same amount of film, prepare like we're playing and that's all we know until he [Ryan] says anything different," Sanchez said. "It's important to keep up with our routine, and you just use this game as preparation for our next playoff game."

The Jets have not played well after breaks in the season. The Jets lost the first game of the season to Baltimore, got shut out at home by Green Bay the week after their bye and lost 45-3 to New England playing the Monday after a Thursday game.

"More than anything it's just that routine he's established," Ryan said. "He's got a good thing going right now and he's comfortable and I just want to keep that going. And the other thing [is] we could be playing a Saturday game and if we are all of a sudden, you haven't done anything, and all of a sudden you're on a short week."

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the team could play in the Saturday game during wild-card weekend, and it was important to have Sanchez fully engaged as the team heads toward the playoffs.

"The biggest thing for all our players is we're not looking at this as a bye week," Schottenheimer said.

Reaction in the Jets' locker room was positive, with backup quarterback Mark Brunell saying that Ryan's decision to start Sanchez was the right call.

"He's our best chance of winning the football game," Brunell said.

In the past two games, Sanchez's quarterback rating has been in the low 80s, up considerably from the two games before that.

Fullback Tony Richardson said that the blockers would do their best to protect Sanchez's shoulder leading up to the postseason.

"Our mindset with anything is make sure he's well protected and not taking any hits and make plays for him," Richardson said. "And as long as he's in there we're going to go out there and protect him, and try to do things to help our offense move the ball down the field."

Ryan also said that right tackle Damien Woody would be out this week due to his MCL injury. Woody has missed two starts due to the knee.

"I think we kind of anticipated him practicing by now," Ryan said. "He supposedly will practice tomorrow, but I don't think he'll be ready to play in the game."

Woody will be replaced again by Wayne Hunter.

A few other players didn't practice: Sean Ellis (back), James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle) and Matt Slauson (personal).

Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.