When you think about it, the Bills are a pretty good doppelganger for the Houston Texans. Both teams have (at least when healthy) good pass rushes, both teams have future superstar receivers from Clemson, and both teams have a maddeningly uncertain future at the most important position on the field – quarterback. I asked Brian Galliford of BRB’s sister site, Buffalo Rumblings, to answer a few questions about Houston’s opponent this weekend, and he was gracious enough to oblige.
1. How did you put up with Ryan Fitzpatrick's inconsistency for four seasons? Seriously...how. I need help. Bonus follow-up question...is E.J. Manuel better or worse than Fitzpatrick?
Well, the Bills have the NFL's longest streak of seasons without a postseason berth, for starters. The three quarterbacks that immediately preceded Fitzpatrick's four-year run were Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, and Trent Edwards. Within the context of a supremely dreary time to be a Bills fan, and coming off of those hilarious excuses for pro quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick felt almost like a godsend, despite the hair-pulled-out moments he is now famous for. His reign will forever be remembered with an "at least he could put points on the board sometimes" vibe. Plus, he had a sweet beard and a cool nickname (The Amish Rifle).
As for whether or not Manuel is better or worse than Fitzpatrick... I was at last week's Bills-Chargers game in person. As Buffalo's offense was looking like garbage drive after drive, during a TV timeout, they showed a highlight of Fitzpatrick's 44-yard touchdown pass to Damaris Johnson on the big screens. Throughout our entire section (in the lower bowl, season ticket holder territory), amused and excited shouts of "Fitz!" popped up around me. Then they showed the score - Giants 30, Texans 10 - and that Fitz had already thrown a bunch of picks. That momentary excitement died down, and then Manuel continued to look like garbage in a 22-10 loss. With that moment still burned into my brain, I'm not sure I'm in the right place mentally to try to answer that question.
2. After seeing Sammy Watkins in action during the regular season, was he worth the trade up? Is he your next Andre Reed?
There will be no "next Andre Reed" until there is a next Jim Kelly - or even just a decent, above-average quarterback in Buffalo for a long period of seasons. Just ask Eric Moulds, who was a supremely talented receiver who had an otherwise excellent career, but who was forced to catch passes from Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, and the aforementioned Losman in his time with the Bills. (Mercifully, he was given some time with Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe to help his statistical cause.)
Watkins is also a supremely talented player, and it shows every single time he partakes in a one-on-one drill in the practice setting, and when you watch him on tape. He is as advertised. I'm not sure a receiver will ever be worth two first-round picks, but I hope that his career in Buffalo won't be judged by what it cost to acquire him. I do hope that the Bills can start getting him the ball more consistently, because I don't think I could handle watching both Watkins and C.J. Spiller toil in this offense. Unicorns aren't meant to be caged.
3. What is the biggest weakness of the Bills defense and how can the Texans exploit it?
Right now, it's their cornerbacks. The only one playing well is Corey Graham, who has been an excellent football player for years but still can't crack a starting lineup because he's not the fastest dude in the world. The Bills are rotating him into the lineup to spell a struggling (and not quite 100 percent) Stephon Gilmore and veteran Leodis McKelvin, who has been repeatedly picked on - to great success - by Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers this season. Plus, second-year slot corner Nickell Robey was pseudo-benched last week for Ron Brooks, so they may have a platoon formulating inside, as well. These are all really talented athletes, but right now all of them look quite vulnerable save for Graham, who really has been outstanding.
4. Can anyone explain to me why C.J. Spiller is not given the ball in space at least 10 times a game just on principle? I swear to Durga every time I catch a Bills game on TV, I see Spiller do something amazing, and yet I never really see him get the amount of touches that a weapon of his caliber normally would be getting. What gives?
Chan Gailey was fairly efficient at scheming ways to get Spiller the ball in space, and the 2012 season was proof of that, as Spiller nearly broke the NFL record for average yards per rush and made the Pro Bowl. Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett brought their own offense up from Syracuse, however, and while they're now doing a better job of getting Spiller into space than they did a year ago (and it helps that he's fully healthy this season), they're also big believers in the offense they've built. Spiller shouldn't be a guy that you stuff into a system.
I miss Gailey. That man schemed Fitz to a six-year, $59 million contract. That makes him an alchemist, as far as I'm concerned.
5. Put your name on it: The score for this game will be Bills ________ ,Texans ________. Why?
Bills 27, Texans 23. Buffalo typically sucks on the road, but hey, they did win in Soldier Field three weeks ago, so maybe things are turning around. Identity-wise, these teams are pretty similar; I like Buffalo's skill talent on offense more than Houston's, and I like their ability to avoid huge mistakes on offense a bit better, as well. Someday, football historians may look back on this Bills-Texans affair as the prototype for a scenario in which the team whose game-manager quarterback screws up the least emerges victorious.
A big thank you to Brian for taking the time to answer all of our burning questions. For all things Bills, head on over to Buffalo Rumblings and join the discussion. You can also see my answers to his questions about the Texans here.
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