First, I blame J.P. Losman's game-deciding fumble on Jason Peters. He didn't block anyone on the play, and barely touched #27 who ran down Losman for the sack/fumble. Losman had no clue the guy was even coming. Some might blame Turk Schonert but, really, it wasn't a terrible play call. If the pass were incomplete the clock would stop - which it was going to anyway at the 2-minute warning. It had the possibility of getting the first down and even flipping field position if the Jets sold out on stopping the run. Peters' failure to even slow down #27 ruined all of that.
With the season officially over after the loss to Miami, I'm actually quite pleased with how the Jets game went. I had something to cheer about until the end of the game and Buffalo didn't hurt their draft position standing. Yeah, I know. I'm supposed to want them to win but I'd rather they get the tools to win meaningful games, not win throw away contests at the end of another year of futility. I will admit to hoping that Trent Edwards returns and lays waste to the Pats in Week 17, but that's because I don't think that will hurt the Bills' ability to get an immediate contributor (I'm hoping for a center) in the first round.
Moving on, the Bills now have 8 losses. They are guaranteed to draft ahead of the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Titans, Giants, Vikings, Panthers, Bucs and Falcons. Buffalo is guaranteed to draft behind the Bengals, Browns, Raiders, Chiefs, Lions, Seahawks and Rams. So, the Bills will draft no sooner than #8 and no later than #20, barring trades.
That leaves the 7-7 Texans, 5-9 Jags, 8-6 Broncos, 6-8 Chargers, 8-5 (at time of posting) Cowboys, 7-5-1 Eagles, 7-7 Redskins, 8-6 Bears, 5-9 Packers, 7-7 Saints, 8-6 Cardinals and 5-9 49ers competing for draft position with the Bills.
Houston has a soft schedule (Raiders, Chiefs) so they should finish 8-8 at the worst. The Jags have the Colts and Ravens so look to finish 5-11. The Broncos (Bills, Chargers) look to finish no worse than 9-7. The Chargers (Bucs, Broncos) may well lose out and go 6-10. The Cowboys, playing the Giants as I type, have Baltimore and Philly meaning they could finish 8-8. The Eagles (Redskins, Cowboys) figure to lose 1 more and finish 8-7-1. Washington (Eagles, 49ers) should win 1 more and end no worse than 8-8. The Bears (Packers, Houston) figure to win at least 1 and finish no worse than 9-7. The Packers (Bears, Lions) will win at least 1 more and finish 6-10. The Saints (Lions, Carolina) should split and finish 8-8. The Cardinals (Patriots, Seahawks) ought to win one more and finish no worse than 9-7. The 49ers (Rams, Washington) will likely finish 6-10.
I'm pegging the Bills at 7-9 for the season, hopefully taking out the Patriots. If the above plays out as I think it might, Buffalo would pick ahead of the Texans, Broncos, Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Bears, Saints, and Cardinals. Add those 8 to the 12 who will definitely pick after Buffalo and the Bills will pick no later than #12. The Bills should pick after the Jags, Chargers, Packers and 49ers. Add them to the 7 teams that will definitely pick before Buffalo and the Bills will pick no sooner than #12. It looks like #12 to me.
Now, let's look at where the Bills might fall if they had finished 9-7 (yes, I know it's not possible, but it would have been had Peters done his job), 8-8, 7-9 and 6-10.
1-7 in some order: Bengals, Browns, Raiders, Chiefs, Lions, Seahawks and Rams
8 Jags (5-11)
9-11 Packers, 49ers, Chargers (6-10)
12 Bills (7-9)
13-16 Saints, Redskins, Cowboys, Houston (8-8)
17 Eagles (8-7-1)
18-20 Bears plus 2 of Jets or Dolphins or Patriots (9-7)
21-32 in some order: Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Titans, Broncos, Giants, Vikings, Panthers, Cardinals, Bucs and Falcons plus 1 of Jets, Dolphins, Patriots
As you can see, if Buffalo falls to 6-10 the pick could be as high as #9, though probably still be #12 based on strength of schedule. The difference between Buffalo finishing 6-10 and 7-9 may be the #11 pick vs the #12. Big deal. I feel confident that a victory over the hated Patriots won't hurt the draft. Should, on the other hand, the Bills finish 8-8 the pick could be as high as #12 or as low as #16. Again, strength of schedule would hurt Buffalo. Had Buffalo avoided a third losing season in a row under Jauron (unlikely but still possible), the pick would be between #17-#20, likely #18. Yes, our crap-tacular team, with a 9-7 record could have been picking right before the 12 teams that made the playoffs. That would have been adding insult to injury.
Kudos to Peters, Losman, Turk and anyone else you care to blame for the fumble and loss in New Jersey. You probably saved the Bills as many as 8 slots (though probably more like 6) in terms of draft positioning. Well done.
Now, the question is whether or not the #12 pick is 'too high' to take the center Buffalo so desperately needs.