Column as I see 'em, Week 14:
So what do they do now? Assuming that Rex Ryan and Tyrod Taylor are both through in Buffalo, where does Bills management proceed from here? How in the world do they continue to sell hope to a dubious and disaffected fan base?
As always, it starts with the quarterback. We can deal with the coaching issue later. After foisting Ryan on the fans, they won't win over the masses with a coach. They need to make some kind of splash at the game's most vital position.
Let's start with this assumption: General manager Doug Whaley, who is in solid with the Pegulas, is not going to embark on some rebuilding plan. Whaley has apparently sold ownership on the notion that he gave Ryan a winning roster – "superior personnel," according to one report – and Ryan failed to take advantage.
Never mind that Whaley has butchered the draft, or that Taylor didn't work out at quarterback. They can pin Taylor on Rex. Whaley's wondrous collection of talent will be unleashed once he finds a competent head coach and a legitimate quarterback.
We've reset to "win-now' mode, GM Whaley trying to justify the owners' faith and president Russ Brandon smiling his approval in the background. Never mind if the wiser course of action would be to clean house, bottom out and try to rebuild the team with high draft picks, as Pegula is doing with the Sabres.
Cardale Jones is far from ready to be the man next season. Despite Whaley's long obsession, EJ Manuel will be gone. They'll look for help in the draft. But if Whaley wants to prove that he built a playoff roster, he has to find a veteran free agent quarterback to put it over the top.
As Vic Carucci laid out a few weeks ago, the options aren't terribly exciting, though they're all better passers than Taylor. Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Bradford could be out there. The next tier includes such uninspiring names as Landry Jones, Mike Glennon and Colin Kaepernick.
The most intriguing possibility is the Cowboys' Tony Romo, who lost his starting job to rookie Dak Prescott this year. Romo is 36 and coming off a back injury. It would be a desperate, short-sighted move, like getting Drew Bledsoe before he hit the wall in 2002. But it's just the sort of move the Bills are known for.
Romo's salary for next season is $14 million, a reasonable figure and less than the Bills would cough up to Taylor in an extension. Pegula can certainly afford it. I'm sure he would love taking one of Jerry Jones' leftovers. If healthy – a big if – Romo is still one of the top 10 QBs in the league.
The problem is, recent events might take Romo off the table. Prescott, a fourth-round pick who led the Cowboys to 11 straight wins, putting himself in the conversation for rookie of the year and MVP, appears to have hit a wall.
The Cowboys' win streak came to an end with a 10-7 loss at the Giants on Sunday night. Prescott was bad. He was 17 of 37 passing for 165 yards with two interceptions. He threw for only 139 yards a week earlier in a win over the Vikings. Dallas has 264 and 260 total yards in its last two games.
Every quarterback has bad games. But not every team has a former Pro Bowler like Romo playing backup. As the Cowboys kept winning and Prescott played well, it became harder to suggest that Romo might regain his job.
Coach Jason Garrett said he never considered putting Romo in Sunday. Owner Jerry Jones said, "No, no, no, no. Not at all. Let me just say that."
But that could change if Prescott continues to struggle. Next up: The red-hot Bucs, who have won five straight and dominated elite QBs Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees in the last three weeks.
Jones, who is desperate to win a Super Bowl, will turn to Romo in a crisis. Either way, he might be convinced to keep Romo around for at least another year to take full advantage of a great offensive line and a championship-caliber roster.
The thought of Romo playing for the Bills in a win-now situation must appeal to the desperate men at One Bills Drive. But late Sunday night, at the end of a long, dismal day in Buffalo, it began looking even more remote.
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Tyrod Taylor wasn't the only NFL quarterback hanging his head on Sunday. It was an especially rough week for many of the top QBs in the league. Five of the league's nine highest-rated QBs finished games with ratings that were below 50, or less than half what they had coming in.
Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger rated at 37.8 in a win over the Bills, his lowest in a game in eight years; Oakland's Derek Carr rated 49.1 in a Thursday night loss to the Chiefs, the worst of his three-year career; the Titans' Marcus Mariota checked in at 45.4 in a win over the Broncos, the worst of his two years in the league.
Prescott, the league leader at 108.6 entering the week, had a 45.4 rating in the loss to the Giants, the lowest of his rookie season; the Saints' Drew Brees threw three interceptions and rated at 48.5 in a loss to Tampa Bay, his lowest since 2012.
Three other top QBs – Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers – had their second-lowest ratings of the year, at least 35 points below average. Maybe it was the weather, or defenses catching up to modern passing attacks, but it had to be one of the worst passing days in recent NFL history.
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This week's highlighted fantasy guy in "Is He Owned?" is Robby Anderson, the Jets' rookie wide receiver. Anderson, an undrafted free agent out of Temple, became a starter when Eric Decker went down and has become a favorite target of Bryce Petty since Petty took over as the starting QB.
Petty has targeted Anderson 21 times in six quarters since replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick during the debacle against the Colts. Anderson has 10 catches for 160 yards in his last two games, including a couple of 40-yarders. He had a 26-yard catch during the Jets' winning TD drive in overtime against the Niners.
Anderson was still available in two of the five leagues I checked on Monday morning. It you're looking for a flex option in the playoffs, go get him.
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Anquan Boldin had three catches for 49 yards and a TD in the Lions' 20-17 win over the Bears, their eighth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. Boldin moved past Andre Johnson into 10th place on the all-time receptions list with 1,064. Boldin, 36, is 15th all-time in receiving yards with 13,676. He's 586 yards behind Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who moved into 10th on the yardage list two weeks ago, moving past – yes, Andre Johnson.
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Remember all that talk about Aaron Rodgers losing his skills a few weeks back? Well, in his last three games, Rodgers has completed 74 percent of his passes for 768 yards, with seven TDs and no interceptions. The Packers have won three straight to creep back into the NFC wild-card race.
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Jack Gray pointed this one out to me: On one of Le'Veon Bell's runs against the Bills, tackles were credited to Lorenzo Alexander and Corey Graham. As in 'Alexander Graham Bell'. Now that's the kind of brilliance you don't get from your average bartender.