I am posting this the night before the game, so I will keep it short and sweet.
The Bills travel to Houston to take on the Texans in an AFC match up of two 2-1 teams. This is a MUST WIN football game if the Bills want to have legitimate playoff aspirations. You just cannot lose to a team that went 2-14 a year ago and is starting a quarterback that wasn’t even good enough to be on the Buffalo Bills.
I will start there, Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. EJ Manuel. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a better football player, simple as that. Ryan Fitzpatrick lacks the prototypical arm strength, size and athleticism that you want to see in a quarterback. But, if you don’t know how to use all those physical tools (I.e. EJ Manuel), then they don’t mean anything. The most important traits of a quarterback are intelligence and fearlessness. Intelligence - can you read the defense and get rid of the ball on time/not do anything stupid? Fearlessness - Will you try and get the first down and not slide unprovoked? Will you stand in the pocket and deliver a football without crumbling?
Ryan Fitzpatrick does not have the physical tools but he is without a doubt smart and fearless. Fitz has turned marginal at best talent into a quality NFL career. He has lasted longer and has started more games than anyone could have guessed when he was drafted in the 7th round out of Harvard and for that he deserves some credit.
EJ Manuel on the other hand has no confidence, plays scared and is dumb as rocks. EJ runs out of bounds and goes down to avoid contact, before contact is even imminent. EJ crumbles in the face of the blitz. He doesn’t stand in the pocket and deliver passes knowing he is about to get hit. The coaches eliminate half of the football field on pass plays so he only needs to read half the field because they know reading the whole field is an impossibility. EJ back peddles into the end zone and then intentionally grounds the ball. EJ Manuel throws check downs with a minute left down 12 points. When he occasionally does make a good read, he throws the ball so inaccurately that his poor receivers are at risk of being decapitated.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is better than EJ Manuel and the Bills would be better with Fitz. Fitz outplaying EJ and the Bills losing Sunday would put this organization is a very precarious position. Fortunately for the Bills, Fitz could outplay EJ Sunday and the Bills could still win the football game because I believe they have the better overall football team. Or, the bad Fitz will show up and throw a few passes to the Bills. I will give the Bills credit on one thing. EJ Manuel being too scared and the Bills coaching being happy with him just running out of bounds and not trying to make plays has allowed him to limit the turnovers. This could come in handy against Fitz and a team that went 2-14 a year ago.
Enough about the QB - what about the Bills other “weapons” on offense? Last Sunday’s game against San Diego was not a good game for those in favor of the Sammy Watkins trade. On top of EJ Manuel sucking, Sammy Watkins was basically invisible AND he admittedly gave up on a play (I don’t blame him for looking after his general welfare at that point in the game). Watkins had 2 for 19 yards and 16 of those 19 yards came on the last drive once the game was over. His Clemson buddy CJ Spiller had 10 carries for 25 yards. His lack of success continues to be a head scratcher but running a draw with him on 3rd and 1 is not setting him up for success.
The Bills offensive coaching sucks. Nate Hackett is way over his head, like we have been saying for, well, 19 games now.
I don’t know much about the Texans. I know they are 2-1 with wins over Washington and the Raiders. Their lone defeat came at the Giants a week ago. Nothing impressive about those two wins as Washington and the Raiders both suck. The Texans employ two really good receivers in veteran Andre Johnson and young budding star DeAndre Hopkins. The way the Bills secondary has performed so far this year, these two guys could give them a very hard time. Steph Gilmore needs to learn how to tackle. He is supposed to be a star but his tackling sucks. He actually whiffed on a tackle, then took a facemask penalty and injured himself on the same play. That is embarrassing. Helping this Bills this week is that starting running back Arian Foster is questionable for the game and might not play. This means the Bills will have to contend with Alfred Blue, the rookie 6th round draft pick.
The Texans do have the best defensive player in football, so I am looking forward to seeing how the Bills offense deals with JJ Watt. Other than Watt though, Houston’s defense hasn’t been too impressive, ranking 25th in yards per game allowed against the likes of RG III, Derek Carr and Eli Manning. No offence to Eli, but these guys aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
I don’t have much confidence in the Bills in this game. On the pod cast I predicted 23-16 Houston, so I am sticking to that. I hope for the sake of the pending media firestorm next week and for the sake of hell not breaking loose in Buffalo that EJ Manuel shows up and doesn’t let Ryan Fitzpatrick make Bills fans clamor for Ryan Fitzpatrick because they have completely given up hope on the former first round reach quarterback EJ Manuel.