Buffalo Bills fans are bullish on their favorite team right now. Casual NFL fans seem to think the Bills are on the up, and media folks are routinely citing Buffalo as a "sleeper team" for the 2012 season. Among the myriad of reasons frequently cited for that label, the most cringe-worthy (at least to me) has to be when Ryan Fitzpatrick is called the second-best quarterback in the division.
Why does that make me cringe? Because Fitzpatrick, in his time with the Bills, has won just one game in nine tries (that's a 1-8 record for those counting) against teams led by Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez and Matt Moore.
Head-to-head comparisons of this nature don't tell the whole story, of course, but the fact remains: when the AFC East quarterbacks have gone head-to-head, Fitzpatrick has rarely come out on top, making any declarations about his being the runner-up to Brady in the division a stretch.
Let's make this easy for you and show you how Fitzpatrick has fared in head-to-head matchups against his divisional quarterbacking brethren:
|Fitzpatrick vs. Brady|
|Fitzpatrick vs. Sanchez|
|Fitzpatrick vs. Moore|
I know what you're thinking.
"Fitzpatrick has no control over how the other guy plays."
"Fitzpatrick's total body of work looks better compared to the other guys than this sampling."
"Buffalo's purported improvements on defense will make the stats of the other guys take a dip."
"Miami is transitioning offenses and has added Ryan Tannehill to distract Moore, while Tim Tebow has the potential to blow up Sanchez and the Jets from a distraction standpoint."
I get all of that. Really, I do; I promise you. And there's a chance, based on everything that has transpired this off-season, that Fitzpatrick emerges as the second-best quarterback in the division. Right now, however, I don't know how you can look at how the Bills, and Fitzpatrick in particular, have performed against this division and draw that conclusion. The Bills have flat-out sucked against the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins lately, and Fitzpatrick hasn't been far behind the team in that department.
The message here: be careful about making bold statements about the Bills' and Fitzpatrick's standing in the division. Buffalo hasn't finished .500 or better in the division since Dick Jauron's second year on the job, and Fitzpatrick - like the team he leads - has everything to prove when it comes to competing in this division.
UPDATE: Since some of you have complained about the narrow focus of this study (some far more respectfully than others), I added in some data that I hadn't quite finished by the time this post auto-published. The idea here was to get a slightly bigger picture: how each of the division's four starting quarterbacks fared in the division, as well as how the four defenses fared against the division's quarterbacks.
First, we'll start with the defenses, where the cheese stands alone in terms of letting other teams rip the cheese to shreds:
Then we have the four quarterbacks within the division, where again, the cheese stands alone.
|Tom Brady||6 (5-1)||162||246||65.9||2,196||8.9||16||7||104.0|
|Matt Moore||5 (3-2)||78||138||56.5||997||7.2||9||5||85.9|
|Mark Sanchez||6 (3-3)||108||185||58.4||1,290||7.0||11||7||83.8|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||6 (1-5)||148||242||61.2||1,656||6.8||10||13||73.0|
The easy and plausible argument to make here is that because the Bills were so atrocious defending the division's quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick wasn't on an even playing field in trying to play on the level with those players against much better defenses. And that's true. The idea is that if the Bills are much more competitive defensively - which they are capable of being - then Fitzpatrick, too, will be much more competitive in the race against his peers.
The point I'm making, however, is that the Bills aren't better on defense yet, and based on what we've seen, there's not much firm ground to be found if you're making the argument that Fitzpatrick is the second best in this division. He has that potential, but he's not there yet.