Column as I see 'em, Week 16:
The memory of Saturday's overtime loss is even more crushing when you realize that the Bills would still be technically alive for a wild-card spot if they had managed to knock off the Dolphins at New Era Field.
No doubt, some fans would rather not be tortured for another week by faint hope. But the Bills got most of the help they needed last week. The Titans, Ravens, Colts and Broncos all lost. They would have needed to win at the Jets and have four other games go their way in the season finales.
But they're finished now, out of the playoffs for the 17th straight year. All that remains is another meaningless last game, the anguished wait for a likely coaching change (if not a total housecleaning), and anticipating the next NFL Draft.
They should treat it as a pointless exercise, too. There's nothing to gain with a win Sunday, except another .500 season and a worse position in the draft. That's why the Bills should do everything in their power to lose against the Jets in what figures to be Rex Ryan's final game as head man.
They're 12th in the draft order with a week to go, but they could get as high as ninth with a loss. A victory could drop them to the high teens. There are still 18 teams that could finish 8-8 or worse, so there's a big swing in play here, which could mean a lot come draft night.
It would be reckless and irresponsible to play Tyrod Taylor against the Jets. Draft position is only part of it. If Taylor suffers a serious injury that sidelines him next year, his contract for 2017 would become guaranteed at $27.5 million. Why in the world would they risk that?
Ryan and his coaches are expert at not getting men onto the field. Here's a situation where it would benefit the franchise to keep a player on the sideline. They would increase the Bills' chances of getting a higher draft pick and guard against an injury that would crush their cap in 2017.
This should be a no-brainer, especially for owners who allowed their hockey team to lose on purpose to get the second pick in the draft (how's that working out, by the way?). In fact, sitting a player in an NFL finale is common practice, far less egregious than tanking an entire NHL season.
Ryan might balk on sitting Taylor, as Doug Marrone did with Kyle Orton before the finale in New England two years ago. Of course, there was no No. 1 pick at stake then because Doug Whaley traded it to Cleveland the previous spring to move up for Sammy Watkins. The issue then was getting EJ Manuel some playing time at quarterback.
Two years later, Manuel can finally get his chance to start. Or play rookie Cardale Jones, who would give them an even better chance to lose to a miserable Jets team – and maybe our old pal, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Technically, it's Ryan's call. But if he plays Taylor, it will be to get another empty .500 season on his resume or to spite the people who are plotting his ouster. Ownership shouldn't let it happen. If they could authorize a Sabres tank, they can certainly make sure Taylor sits.
Come on. Losing on purpose is the one thing the Pegulas have been experts at since becoming sports owners. Time to rev up the old tank once more.
When Miami rookie Kenyan Drake broke a 45-yard touchdown run against the Bills, I had an immediate thought: Does this mean I have to update the list of obscure backs who have their coming-out moment against Buffalo?
Yes. It was the longest run of Drake's career. His previous high was 16. In fact, that run gave him the biggest rushing day of his brief career. He finished with four carries for 56 yards and has 169 yards on the season. I'm moving him into 12th (out, Bobby Rainey) on my "Dirty Dozen" of backs who've had their breakout game against the Bills. The list in review:
1. Willie Parker, Steelers, unknown until he went for 102 yards in the 2004 finale; 2. Brandon Bolden, Pats, who inspired the list when he ran for 137 yards in a 2012 rout at the Ralph. Bolden hasn't rushed for more than 58 in a game since; 3. Spencer Ware, Chiefs, who had the first 100-yard game of his career in a win over the Bills last season.
4. Bilal Powell, Jets, a career-high 149 yards in 2013. Still a Jet backup, he had 145 three weeks ago vs. the Niners; 5. Ryan Moats, Texans, obscurity had a career-high 126 yards and TDs against Bills in 2005; 6. Jerome Harrison, Browns, went 72 yards for first career TD on Monday night here in '08.
7. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants. Had 39 career yards coming into a game at Bills in late '07, ran for 151 that day, including an 88-yard TD, longest TD run ever against the Bills. 8. Shane Vereen, Pats. Rushed for a career-high 101 yards at the Ralph in the 2013 opener.
9. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Pats. “The Law Firm” had 105 yards, a career high at the time, at Foxborough in 2008. 10. James White, Pats. Scored first two TDs of career on Monday night last season; 11. Pierre Thomas, Saints. A no-name when he ran for 126 yards at the Ralph in ‘09, a career high. 12. Kenyan Drake.
Speaking of running backs, Arizona's David Johnson had 136 combined rushing and receiving yards against Seattle, giving him 100 scrimmage yards in all 15 games. Johnson is averaging 138 scrimmage yards a game and can become the first to do it in all 16 games of a season Sunday against the Rams. Barry Sanders had 100 scrimmage yards in each of the last 15 games in 1997.
But Johnson isn't even the league's most productive back. Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell, who was suspended for the first three weeks for substance abuse, has 1,884 yards in 12 games, an average of 157 a game. Coincidentally, the Titans' Chris Johnson averaged 157 a game in 2009, when he set the NFL record of 2,509 scrimmage yards.
Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott entered Monday's game third in the NFL with 1,902 scrimmage yards, an average of 136 a game. DeMarco Murray of the Titans is fourth with 1,645 scrimmage yards. The Bills' LeSean McCoy is fifth with 1,607.
The Patriots can sew up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win on Sunday at Miami (the Raiders own the tiebraker if they both finish 13-3). They're an even heavier favorite to get to another Super Bowl after Oakland's Derek Carr broke his leg Saturday.
It's not an imposing cast of quarterbacks standing in the way of Tom Brady and Co. The TV people can't be too thrilled by the possibility of Tom Savage (Houston) and Matt McGloin (Oakland) meeting in an AFC divisional playoff game. Or Matt Moore (Miami) playing against Brady in Gillette.
The dream QB matchup, of course, would have Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers winning two games and meeting up with Brady in the AFC title game.
It's hard to see Dan Carpenter returning to Buffalo next season. Carpenter missed two field goals against Miami, including a 45-yard miss in overtime. He's 18 for 24 on field-goals (75 percent). That's 31st among eligible kickers, ahead of only Minnesota's Blair Walsh, who was released in mid-November.
Carpenter is 0 for 5 from 40 yards or longer in losses this season. He has also missed five extra points this year and 11 in the two years since the distance was moved back. That's the most misses in the league in that time.
Chris Manhertz, the former Canisius College basketball standout, had the first reception of his career for the Panthers in Saturday's 33-16 loss to Atlanta. Manhertz, a 6-6 tight end, hauled in 10-yard pass from Cam Newton.
Manhertz, who was an elite rebounder and team leader for the Griffs from 2010-14, was given a tryout by the Bills in the spring of 2015. He was cut before the 2015 season and spent that year on the Saints' practice squad. The Saints waived him and he was picked up by the Panthers in October.
The Bills and Miami combined for 533 yards rushing Saturday, a record for the rivalry. The previous record was 508, set in a 34-0 Dolphins home win in 1971. O.J. Simpson had 90 of the Bills' 206 rushing yards that day. Mercury Morris had 116 and Larry Csonka 88 for Miami.