The Bills have nothing to lose in this week's game against the Jets. As a result, there has been plenty of speculation about whether Buffalo will be aggressive running trick plays and going for it on fourth downs. This is worth watching and could have a big impact on the outcome of the game. I think a more interesting strategic call will be in the handling of their quarterback.
Statistically Tyrod Taylor has had a really nice season. He is completing passes at a good 63.6% clip. His yards per attempt average is a robust 8.1, and his quarterback rating is over 100. There are some other telling numbers, however.
They are 19, 29, 17, 12, 27, 21, and 18. Those are the number of passes Taylor has attempted in the seven games he has started that the Bills have won. It is telling that he has averaged only just over 20 passes per game in Buffalo wins.
By contrast, the least number of passes Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown in a game (excluding the Oakland contest when he was injured in the first quarter) is 24 against the Browns in the opener. That is in a win or a loss. Taylor has thrown the ball less than that in five of seven Buffalo wins.
This paints a clear picture. The Buffalo coaching staff seems to feel the team is at its best when Taylor's impact on the game is minimized. The results also suggest this. Buffalo happens to have almost the highest frequency of running plays in the NFL.
You can even tell based on comments from the people running the Bills that the team has not been carried by Taylor this season.
"The biggest thing for him is he has to take that next step and that next step is the end-of-the-game situations where we can count on him like he did in Tennessee [in Week 5]," general manager Doug Whaley told WGR 550 radio Tuesday. "To get that consistency in the end of game situations where we can depend on him and basically throw the game on his back and have him come through and deliver."
"I think all the other numbers are telling you that this young man has a real chance," coach Rex Ryan said Dec. 14. "Never be considered a great quarterback until you can bring your team back and win in those situations. So yeah, I would say that, that is the next stage in being able to bring his team back in those situations."
In the NFL there is a big difference between the quarterback not being a weakness and the quarterback being the reason you win games. Taylor is currently in the former category. On third and fourth down plays, he is only a 57% passer. In the second half of one score games, he is a 56% passer.
That is not meant to be a knock on him. As Jets fans can tell you from the last four seasons, having the quarterback spot not be a weakness is easier said than done. The Bills have done a nice job working around Taylor's skillset. They have utilized his mobility and incorporated it into their run game. I don't think teams do things like this enough. If you don't have a guy who can carry the load, make it as easy on him as possible. The Bills have done their best to make things easy on him, and the statistics indicate they have had some measure of success. The numbers are more akin to a platoon guy in baseball, the lefty who only faces righty pitching, than a quarterback who is a franchise player, however.
This brings me back to the original comment. The Bills have tried to put Tyrod into favorable positions this season, asking him ideally to do a minimum. Now with nothing to lose, is this the game they turn him loose? Do they throw it all over the field? Do they get him a game under his belt based around the passing game?
We will have to find out. It is the type of move that could make the best case scenario in this game better for the Jets in the event Taylor cannot handle a bigger role but also the worst case scenario worse.