The Bills need to win out to match Doug Marrone's 2014 record. No, that was not what anyone expected back in training camp. The show does, however, go on. And players this week have insisted they're going to keep fighting.
Three quick thoughts this morning...
1. Tyrod Taylor may be the answer, but Bills must draft a QB. For the most part, Rex Ryan is right. Taylor has played better than pretty much anyone could've expected. He doesn't turn the ball over, he creates with his legs and he throws one of the best deep balls in the AFC. Considering there most likely won't be any enticing veteran alternatives in March, there's no harm in Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley saying they view Taylor as their starter into the 2016 season. But Bills fans have heard this song before. They've felt this sense of hope before at the quarterback position. In 2006, JP Losman was viewed as a silver lining. Yeah, the Bills went 7-9 but Losman threw for 3,051 yards and 19 touchdowns. Two years later, with his 5-1 start, Trent Edwards inspired hope again. The lesson learned: it takes time to figure out if someone is a long-term solution. The mistake isn't necessarily sticking with Taylor another year; the mistake would be not drafting a quarterback. The Bills absolutely must add a young arm to develop. Through the 90's, Hall-of-Fame GM Ron Wolf drafted quarterbacks nearly every year even though he had Brett Favre. He understood the value in the position, taking the likes of Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks. Yet since Jim Kelly retired after the 1997 season, Bills have only drafted four --- four!? --- quarterbacks. Unfathomable considering how bad the Bills have been this stretch.
The team convinced itself it already had the long-term answer year after year after year in only drafting EJ Manuel (first, 2013), Levi Brown (seventh, 2010), Edwards (third, 2007), Losman (first, 2004). That can't happen again.
In this same 1997-2015 span, the Packers drafted 10 quarterbacks... even though they had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
And the Patriots drafted nine quarterbacks... even though they had Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady.
2. Who fits on D? Rex Ryan pointed the finger back at himself again... and again... and again on Wednesday, taking full responsibility for the Bills' defensive woes. As he should. This was, after all, a Top 5 defense before he rolled into town. His scheme was installed the Bills proceeded to hardly the touch the quarterback at all this season. Since Ryan is here to stay, the question now becomes which players fit best in his 3-4 scheme? The theme of the off-season will likely be all about the head coach finding the right personnel for what he wants to do. Jerry Hughes, despite the maddening penalties, is here to stay. He has flourished as Ryan's primary edge rusher. Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby are locked in at cornerback. But Buffalo has not gotten much big-play production from its starting inside linebackers (a combined one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble), Mario Williams (16 tackles, four sacks) clearly has not been a fit and has made that much known multiple times and Ryan could use another pass rusher opposite Hughes. These final three games, the Bills should leave no stone unturned defensively with 2016 on the mind.
3. Karlos Williams' absence felt. Like most teams, the Bills have been hit hard by injuries this season. One we haven't discussed much here is the rookie Williams. Through the first two months of the season, Williams was arguably the best rookie back in the draft. His hard-nosed, one-cut-and-go style triggered a flurry of momentum-changing runs and a 5.7 yards per carry average. But slowed by a shoulder injury (and a concussion before that), Williams only has 15 carries since the Bills' Nov. 8 win over Miami. This injury probably hurt more than most realize. At Philadelphia, Williams' bruising style would've been the perfect complement to LeSean McCoy. Before and after the game, Eagles players said they were preparing for McCoy's unique game. He stretches runs wide laterally, always seeking the big hitter so they funneled everything back inside. Williams, on the other hand, gets north and south. That's what makes these two so dangerous in tandem --- they're so different. Without a doubt, Williams being sidelined is a big reason the Bills have lost three of their last four. Too often, Buffalo's offense trips into second-half funks and can't get out. Williams did return to practice this week. But considering his physical style, they'll probably just need to live with a week off here and there.