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Bills will triumph

Walker Carey | Thursday, September 22, 2011

After two weeks of the NFL season, there are seven teams that hold 2-0 records. While it is probably too early in the season to deem squads as either surprises or disappointments, I will go against the grain and declare the Buffalo Bills a resounding early season surprise. Most football pundits predicted Buffalo would finish in last place this season. However, the Bills currently sit in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with the unbeaten powerhouses the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.

Chan Gailey’s squad demoralized Kansas City 41-7 in Week One and battled back from an 18 point deficit to top Oakland 38-35 in Week Two. The Bills offense has been led to the victories by two unlikely standouts — quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson.

Selected in the seventh round out of Harvard by the St. Louis Rams in 2005, Fitzpatrick’s career has mirrored that of a journeyman quarterback. From 2005-2006, he played sparingly on two below-average Rams teams. After his time in St. Louis, he went to Cincinnati where he played more, but still on poor football teams.

Fitzpatrick took his proverbial talents to Buffalo in 2009 and struggled mightily in his eight starts that season. While the Bills finished just 4-12 last season, Fitzpatrick experienced a breakout campaign. In 13 starts, he threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns — both new career highs.

Going into this season, there was no doubt that Fitzpatrick would be Buffalo’s quarterback, but there was doubt that he could perform at a high level each week. These past two weeks, Fitzpatrick put his doubters to rest by completing 63.4% of his passes for 472 yards and seven touchdowns, and compiled a 109.6 quarterback rating.

Fred Jackson went undrafted out of Division III Coe College (IA) in 2003. Jackson joined the Sioux City Bandits of the United Indoor Football League for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. After playing with the Rhein Fire of the now defunct NFL Europe in 2006, Jackson was invited to Bills training camp and earned a spot on the team’s roster. He began to make his presence known in Buffalo, culminating in his first 1,000-yard season in 2009. Although the Bills used their first round pick on running back C.J. Spiller in 2010, Jackson held on to the starting spot.

Jackson has exceeded expectations this season. He currently leads the entire league in rushing with 229 yards and is averaging an outlandish 6.5 yards a carry. In the Bills’ close victory over Oakland, Jackson carried the ball just 15 times, but gained 117 yards and scored two touchdowns.

While the Bills likely face an uphill battle to keep their winning ways alive — they host New England this Sunday — Fitzpatrick and Jackson appear poised to at least give the long-suffering Bills a chance to remain competitive.


Contact Walker Carey at wcarey@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.