Wow - this season has gone from pretty promising to reasonably disappointing in a matter of a few weeks - but that is how the NFL is, each game means so much.
So - Rumblers - if we make the assumption that the Bills won't make the playoffs - what's on the line?
Actually, I think quite a bit, including:
First - Ryan Fitzpatrick. A lot of people might think Ryan's pretty secure as the team's quarterback for the foreseeable future, but I think there are a lot of reasons that it is important he plays well down the stretch. If he can play well, close to as well as he played against the Jets, and if the team can finish somewhat strong (say 8-8), then I think that gives the team and the front office quite a bit of confidence going into next year. I just think that it is important that he and Gailey make adjustments, and that Ryan proves that he can make enough NFL throws for this team to be a playoff team next year.
Second - everybody is saying it and it's true - this is an important six game stretch for CJ Spiller. Jackson has been so good that it hasn't really made sense to give CJ a lot of touches. But this is a golden opportunity for CJ to grow as a RB and for the Bills to evaluate when and how to use him. You wonder if he does really well if this could affect Jackson's contract - I don't think it should - but nobody said that life in the NFL is fair. Also, I think the Bills losing, if it continues could affect the contract situations.
Third - WR. I really liked the WR situation against the Jets with Stevie and Smith on the outside and Nelson in the slot. To me, Donald Jones is not a starting NFL receiver, I like him as a fourth or fifth receiver and a good special teams gunner on punts. But to me, he has average hands at best, and doesn't adjust terribly well to downfield throws. So I think the number two WR situation is wide open for Brad Smith to lay claim to. Incidentally, I hope that Gaily continues to use a fair amount of the two TE personnel groupings, I think it helps the team be more physical, and just plain better.
Fourth - CB. I'd like to say pass rush, but I've almost given up on that until the draft next year. But I like what I've seen from Aaron Williams and Justin Rodgers - and I think the Bills will give them both every opportunity to earn more and more playing time. With CB a possibility high in the draft next year, I think what happens with the Bills young corners will dictate to some extent what the Bills do at this position in the off-season.