Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been one of the breakout stars of the NFL this season. He is currently ranked as a top 10 quarterback, according to ESPN's Total QBR - and only trailing New England's Tom Brady among AFC East signal callers.
So, is Fitzpatrick's emergence as a top caliber quarterback the real thing, or should we expect to see him flop back to Earth? And, was the six-year, $59 million contract extension the right move to make?
I posed these questions to Brian Galliford of SB Nation's Buffalo Rumblings, our outstanding sister blog focusing on Miami's AFC East division rival.
"Everyone's definition of 'the real thing' is slightly different," Galliford stated. "Fitzpatrick gives the Bills some stability at quarterback until they can determine their long-term direction at the position. He's played really well at times. Combine those two factors, and yes, he absolutely deserved a contract extension. He works well with Chan Gailey, and he gives the Bills a chance to win football games."
Stability at the quarterback position can never be over-valued, as we all know watching the Dolphins' rotating door behind center since Dan Marino retired. And, Fitzpatrick really has played well for the majority of this year. He currently has a 65.3% completion rate (190-for-291), having thrown for 2,076 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, given him a passer rating of 87.4.
Fitzpatrick's worst two games of the season have come over the last two weeks. In week 9, the Bills hosted the Jets, who held the Buffalo QB to 15-for-31 passing (48.4% completions), just 191 yards and 1 touchdown; they intercepted Fitzpatrick twice. Looking to rebound from that performance, the Bills, and Fitzpatrick, looked even worse the next week, hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Fitzpatrick went 20-for-30, bringing his completion percentage up to 64.5% from the previous effort, but he only added one touchdown, compared to three interceptions.
So, what led to the success the Jets and Cowboys had against the Harvard alumnus, and, how can the Dolphins attack him?
"In terms of attacking him," Galliford explained, "it's not difficult: disguise your blitzes as best as you can, get pressure, and bump his receivers to disrupt the timing of the Bills' rhythm passing game. That's what the Ryan brothers have effectively done over the last two weeks, and Buffalo hasn't been able to deal with it."
The Dolphins could find success along those lines, if the pass rush gets itself established early. With a passing game focused on getting into a rhythm, the Dolphins will have to use Vonate Davis, and especially the giant cornerback Sean Smith, to press the wide outs at the line of scrimmage and keep Fitzpatrick from being able to time his passes effectively.
If Miami is able to effectively disrupt Fitzpatrick, they could be looking at a three-game win streak, and their second home victory of the season. If they don't jam the receivers, and can't get to Fitzpatrick with the pass rush, the Bills quarterback will be able to pick apart a shaky, at best, Dolphins' secondary.
At least we all know, this week has a lot riding on what should be a very entertaining game.