Tarvaris Jackson will start several games for Bills this year – let that sink in.
I’ll try to keep this as fantasy related as possible, but my sense of impending doom may lead me astray at times. I apologize in advance.
The Bills closed out their preseason – that glorified home game against Detroit every year is a slap in the face to fans in attendance – on Saturday night. The score is irrelevant but there were some takeaways from the loss against Pittsburgh. Stevie Johnson is still good for dropping a few balls a game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still an average quarterback that can play above his skill level in spurts. The defense will be solid, but prone to a soul crushing 98-yard drive every now and then.
Most frighteningly there was also Vince Young being so terrible – so bad – that Buddy Nix went out and acquired Tarvaris fuckin’ Jackson in what is sadly an upgrade at the most important position in the sport.
If you’re thinking of taking Fitzpatrick in the later rounds of your draft for insurance, please stop. For your sake, and for my sake when the masses jump on twitter and find new ways to trash the guy from Haaahvad for being terrible.
Earlier this week 100 yards and Running’s Rob Pizzola wrote that there are two teams with a legitimate shot at the division crown in his AFC East betting preview. The world has run out of jokes to describe the mess that is the New York Jets, and the Miami Dolphins would do well to employ Jimmy Buffet and the Williams sisters in their wide receiver corps. New England is New England. Tom Brady will lead that team to at least 10 wins as long as his arm doesn’t fall off – still working on the potion.
That leaves Buffalo. Though as a Bills fan I’ve been trained to expect the worst, the off-season was promising. Mario Williams and Mark Anderson relegate Chris Kelsay to spot duty – thank god. Reports indicate Stephon Gilmore has made a seamless transition to the rigors of the NFL – the dreadlock theory in full effect. The Bills’ schedule is not daunting. Non-divisional play sees the AFC East match up with the NFC West – the NFL’s version of the NIT tournament – and the AFC South. Buffalo begins the season with the Jets (road), Chiefs (home) and Browns (road) – three very winnable games.
Just like last year, the Bills could start 3-0.
And even with all of those factors in their favor, the 2012 edition of the Bills will not be good. I don’t think this team will make the playoffs. I think this will be Fitzpatrick’s final year in Buffalo, and I think Nix and Chan Gailey don’t expect Jackson to be on the sidelines for long.
It comes back to Fitzpatrick. Yes, the Amish Rifle – I’m ashamed of my fellow Bills fans for this nickname, terrible – excelled in the first half of last year. Yes, the rib injury suffered against the Redskins is constantly cited as the reason Fitzpatrick slowly morphed into the guy he was in Cincinnati and St.Louis. While it’s a comforting theory, I don’t buy it.
Fact is, Fitzpatrick was awful after Week 8. David Nelson’s admission that Fitz was hurt for much of the second half is the type of statement I’ve come to disregard because most professional athletes aren’t medical professionals. As Alen Dumonjic pointed out in June, Fitzpatrick’s poor footwork has to improve drastically.
After Week 3, the Bills’ schedule gets considerably more difficult:
New England at Buffalo
Buffalo at San Francisco
Buffalo at Arizona
Tennessee at Buffalo
Buffalo at Houston
Buffalo at New England
I see one to two wins in that stretch. For a team with playoff aspirations, that won’t not be good enough. One more back-footed, cross body interception in Houston will be the final straw for a desperate Gailey. The Tarvaris Jackson era will begin – and end – in 2012.
As much as it has become a horrible cliché uttered by the likes of Ron Jaworski and Phil Simms, the NFL really is a quarterback driven league – meaning you don’t win unless you’ve got an elite one. The Bills don’t, and until they do nothing will change. They will be a team with above average talent that under performs.
I hope I’m wrong. I Really do. If Fred Jackson and the key cogs on defense – Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams – can stay healthy, Buffalo will be competitive. Whether that will be enough to overcome inconsistent quarterback play will be the question. Unfortunately, I remain skeptical.
What say you fellow Bills fans. Is anyone else this pessimistic?