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Desperately Seeking Playoff Salvation, Is Today the Final Stand for the Bills?

Three weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills found themselves at 5-2 proving preseason doubters and detractors wrong, and gaining believers with each passing week, with each heart stopping victory.  Fast forward three weeks, and the Bills have almost bottomed out losers of three in a row with crippling injuries, a severe lack of offense and a disappearing act in the wins department.  Now, at 5-5 and with their season circling the drain, today looks as though this will be the last stand for the Bills in 2011. 

The question is what (and who) do they have left in the tank to grind out a divisional win at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets? 

They’ve been outmuscled, pushed around, beat up, blown out and embarrassed.  The Bills have arguably lost their top three players to the IR (Kyle Williams, Eric Wood and Fred Jackson).  The points aren’t there.  The effort isn’t there.  It’s fairly easy to see why everyone has written the Bills off.  This slide is making what happened in 2008 look like Thanksgiving dinner. 

Under normal circumstances, with the Bills sitting at 5-5 and needing some help from some other prospective AFC playoff hopefuls to lose this week, this is a must-win do-or-die situation.  But against the Jets, who are also 5-5, this is Buffalo’s Super Bowl.  Rex Ryan is 4-1 against Buffalo since 2009.  His teams have out-physicaled the Bills in virtually all five games.  They’ve ran it down the Bills’ throat.  They’ve bullied them.  They’ve beaten them up and down the field.   These are the Jets and the Bills simply have not figured them out in almost three seasons.

So who is going to step up?  If the Bills are to borrow a page from Philadelphia’s history book and pull off their own Miracle at the New Meadowlands, all eyes will be on Ryan Fitzpatrick and C.J. Spiller.  Since he put his Jon Hancock on a lucrative $59 million contract extension almost a month ago, Fitzpatrick’s play has been worth roughly 59 cents.  He’s thrown four touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the offense to 26 combined points in three straight losses.  He’s been pressured.  He’s air mailed throws.  He’s missed receivers, been victimized of key drops and now resembles a quarterback who’s confidence has gone downhill while struggling to regain his early season form.  I’ve said it the past two weeks against Dallas and Miami and it doesn’t change today:  if the Bills have any hopes of turning things around, it begins and ends with Fitzpatrick’s pass under center.  How he goes will go a long way determining how the Bills play today and how they’ll finish out the rest of the season.

And perhaps there’s the most interesting storyline on the field today for either the Bills or the Jets.  C.J. Spiller goes from the frying pan into the fire.  He has enormous shoes to fill in the absence of Fred Jackson.  Jackson has been one of the best rushers in 2011 and was having an MVP caliber season.  Now, with Jackson lost for the season, the running game falls at the feet of Spiller who has just three touchdowns in 24 games for the Bills.  Buffalo’s 2010 first-round pick hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far.  But this is now his chance to cement a place in Buffalo’s backfield going forward.  The Bills remain steadfast in their belief that Spiller is going to be a tremendous player.  It’s time he starts proving his worth.

This is it.  There will be no more second chances, no do-overs.  We won’t be hitting the reset button later this afternoon.  The Bills have made more than their fair share of mistakes over the past three weeks.  Buffalo has given precious games away over the past month with penalties, turnovers, and mental mistakes.  Now the Bills will need their very best game of the year with their season on the brink.

Can the Bills circle the wagons and deliver against the Jets?


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