1. Once again, Rex Ryan will pretend it doesn't matter. Once again, no one will believe him. But make no mistake: Ryan is many times more emotionally charged for Sunday's season-finale against the Jets than he was for the Nov. 12 encounter at MetLife Stadium. His season has boiled down to a single game, and not merely because it's the last on the schedule. A Bills victory would knock the Jets, his former employer, out of the playoffs. It would allow Ryan to ruin an otherwise impressive run to the postseason under his successor, Todd Bowles. Regardless of what he says, Ryan would find it impossible to stomach the idea of the Jets making the playoffs one year after his firing. The topic is and will continue to be big with media covering both teams. Arguably, it's bigger with those on the Jets' beat, because that team genuinely has something on the line. Ryan will do all he can to get his players to buy into the notion that the game is larger than merely the lone obstacle separating them from the offseason. And he'll probably be mostly successful with that. Heck, Boobie Dixon already has declared it the Bills' fifth "Super Bowl" appearance. The question is, how much will the fan base, a large portion of which is disillusioned that the Bills fell well short of Ryan's brash promises upon his hiring, care? Will they make Rex's cause their own? Or are they more curious to see how Ryan Fitzpatrick stands up against his old team? Either way, this has become a far more interesting game for the Bills and their fans than it has a right to be.
2. My two biggest takeaways from Doug Whaley's interview on WGR 550 Tuesday are these: He has a realistic-sounding view of Tyrod Taylor and a realistic-sounding view of his long-term future as the Bills' general manager. On Taylor, Whaley said, "...you have a team with the possibility -- and I stress possibility -- of the quarterback in the future." That's exactly what he and anyone else paying attention should believe about a QB preparing to make only the 14th start of his career. Taylor has done his share, mainly with his dynamic running, to establish his presence as a difference-maker. He also has done his share, mainly with his work as a pocket passer, to raise more than a few questions about whether he truly is a franchise quarterback. On his own status, Whaley said, "It's one of those things where the ownership doesn't have to tell me anything. I've always attacked my job as, 'Let me do my job, not to lose it. But to keep it and keep getting better.' So until the ownership tells me my keys don't work, I'm here for the long haul and I'm here to get this team where we need to go." Additionally, he said the feedback of the Pegulas is, "'What do we need to get better this week?' And then after this week, we turn to 'What do we need to get better, all of us, top down, going forward?'" That's a smart, thoughtful manner for Whaley to go about his business. Whatever help is needed, accept it, because fixing this team -- especially its defense -- is going to be a fairly large chore.
3. I went to see the movie "Concussion" the other day. I'd be lying if I said it did not have a profound impact on the way I now look at the game I have loved since I was a child and a league I have made a living writing and talking about for nearly 40 years. There was a part of me that felt guilty for, in some ways, contributing to the glorification of a sport that has proven so damaging to the lives of some of those who played it professionally. I felt downright queasy at times, remembering the many players I've known who took those repeated blows to the head without anyone (myself included) giving even the slightest thought to the long-term effects they might have. I can't count the number of times I've written in glowing terms about the guys who delivered or withstood those hits. And I don't feel so good about that now. Using Pittsburgh as a backdrop, the movie does an excellent job of weighing the disturbing findings of a pathologist in that city (brilliantly portrayed by Will Smith) and the potential harm they could do to a game that provided such a tremendous source of pride for a town suffering through the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s. The Steelers' importance to Pittsburgh, which in many ways mirrors the Bills' importance to Buffalo, was the central theme of a powerful exchange in the movie between Smith's character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, and Steelers neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, played by Arliss Howard. "You want to fold up the National Football League," Maroon says. "... Do you have any idea of the impact of what you're doing? If just 10 percent of mothers in America decide that football is too dangerous for their sons to play, that is it -- it is the end of football. Kids, colleges and eventually it's just a matter of time, the professional game."