Column as I see ‘em, Week 10:
Sean McDermott announced Monday that Josh Allen would be the Bills starting quarterback against Jacksonville after the bye, assuming Allen is healthy.
Give the coach credit. McDermott knew better than to repeat the mistake he made two months ago, when he chose Nathan Peterman over Allen as the starter in the season opener, based on a couple of promising preseason performances against backups.
We know how that turned out. A lot of fans felt Matt Barkley deserved another start after his impressive outing in a 41-10 rout of the Jets on Sunday. But McDermott decided not to choose a marginal quarterback over his rookie franchise guy based on a small sampling.
Barkley was a mild revelation, completing 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first start in two years. But let’s not go overboard here. Barkley has played for seven teams in six years for a reason. He said afterward that he knew he could play in the NFL. He proved that’s true, but his ceiling is as a backup.
He did it against a Jets team that had little fight and played as if looking to get its coach, Todd Bowles, fired. Peterman could have won that game. The same goes for Derek Anderson. Terrelle Pryor likely could have played QB and pulled them through in a crisis.
That doesn’t mean Barkley shouldn’t figure in the Bills’ plans. He’s better than Peterman and younger than Anderson, and could be the answer at backup next season, though I’d shoot higher. They’ll need a viable backup next season if Allen doesn’t develop as hoped.
Allen needs to be the starter for the rest of the season, however. They need to resume his development. That was the point of this season, right? He was going to play eventually, even if he wasn’t deemed ready out of camp. If they were 3-6 and he was sitting, people would have been clamoring for the kid, the presumed franchise QB, to play after the bye.
Don’t tell me how it would be better for Allen to watch and learn behind Barkley. They picked him seventh overall, the highest they’ve drafted a quarterback. What would it say if he had to defer to a guy who’s been castoff six times in six years? It was bad enough that he lost out to a former fifth-round pick who had to be yanked halfway through the opener.
If he’s healthy, Allen goes back out there, for better or worse. Barkley had his day. It was a nice story. Allen is the future. It’s time to get back to the future, don’t you think?
The Patriots’ 34-10 loss at the Titans on Sunday was their most one-sided defeat since a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night on Sept. 29, 2014. That was the infamous day when Bill Belichick repeatedly answered “It’s on to Cincinnati” after the game.
New England won seven in a row after that game and went on to beat Seattle in the Super Bowl. So one learns never to underestimate the Patriots, or assume a crack in their dynasty. Remember, they started 1-2 this season, then won six in a row before the loss in Tennessee.
Still, there has to be concern in New England. They’ve lost three road games this season, all by double digits and two against Belichick disciples (Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel). The Pats are still two games clear in the sorry AFC East and a heavy favorite to win the division for an astonishing 10th consecutive year.
But at 7-3, the Pats are now two games behind the Chiefs and one back of the Chargers and Steelers in the loss column. If they don’t finish top two in the conference, they won’t have a first-round playoff bye for the first time in nine years.
They’d be at home in the wild-card game as AFC East champions (they’ve never started the playoffs on the road in the Brady era, which is amazing in its own right), but would have to go on the road for the divisional round.
The Pats have won nine straight playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Their last two postseason road games were losses to the Broncos in the AFC title game, after the 2013 and 2015 seasons. They’re always tough in January, but even more so at home.
To assure themselves a home game in the division round, the Pats will likely have to win five of their last six and get to 12-4. The Chargers have won six in a row, the Steelers five straight. The Texans have won six straight after an 0-3 start and lead the AFC South.
So the Pats, who have reached seven straight AFC championship games, don’t have much margin for error. They’re two games behind the 9-1 Chiefs, though they did beat Kansas City and would have the tiebreaker in the event of a tie.
They’re still the Pats, and they still have Tom Brady. But they looked a little old and slow against the Titans. The bye comes at a good time. So does their next opponent: The Jets.
Three weeks ago, when they prepared to host Buffalo, the Colts were 1-5 and being written off as contenders. They’ve won three in a row, scoring 108 points in the process, and moved to within a game of the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
It’s safe to say Andrew Luck is recovered from his shoulder woes, which cost him all of the 2017 season. Luck has 21 touchdown passes over his last six games, more than Patrick Mahomes (17) has during that stretch. Luck has at least three TD passes in six straight.
Luck is completing a career-high 66.3 percent of his passes for 2,472 yards, with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s been sacked only 10 times in 371 attempts (none, remarkably, in his last 185 attempts), the lowest sack percentage of any rated quarterback.
Heading in the Bills game, Luck attempted 288 passes in six games, putting him on pace to shatter the NFL record for attempts in a season. He has thrown only 83 in the three-game winning streak, completing 72.3 percent, and posted his three top-rated games of the year.
Of course, those were against the Bills, Raiders and Jaguars, who have a combined 6-21 record. On Sunday, Indy hosts the Titans, who are 5-4 coming off their upset of the Patriots.
Is He Owned? This week’s featured fantasy find is Bears rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller, who had a career-high 122 yards, including a 45-yard TD pass from Mitch Trubisky, in the Bears’ 34-22 victory over the Lions on Sunday.
MIller, the 51st overall pick in last April’s draft, also had a 55-yard grab from Trubisky, who had a career-high 354 passing yards for the 6-3 Bears. He equaled his career high of five catches, set a week earlier against the Bills when he had 49 yards.
A Memphis product, Miller has been targeted at least six times in four straight games. He’s become a favorite target of Trubisky after fully recovering from a dislocated pinkie summer during the summer. He has 24 catches for 332 yards and four TDs on the year.,
Miller was available in all three of my leagues. After losing Will Fuller and Cooper Kupp in consecutive weeks in the media league, I’ll have to put in a bid.
Stats Incredible: The Bills’ defense is No. 1 in the NFL in yards per game at 302.2. The Ravens are second at 305.0. Buffalo has held consecutive opponents under 200 total yards for the first time since Weeks 2-3 of the 1999 season. Last week, they became the first NFL team since 1940 to give up 190 yards or less and 11 first downs or less and lose by 32 or more points … Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 50 yards against KC, moving past Terrell Owens for second all-time with 15,952 receiving yards. Jerry Rice is first with a mind-blowing 22,895 … Drew Brees is completing 77.3 percent of his passes and has a 123.8 passer rating. Both would be NFL records. Aaron Rodgers holds the single-season rating record at 122.5. Brees holds the completion percentage mark at 72.0. Four quarterbacks (Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins) are currently completing between 71.0 and 71.3 percent … Do you think taking the ball away matters? The bottom 10 teams in the NFL in takeaways all have losing records … Corner Levi Wallace had never played a snap in an NFL game before Sunday. He was the only Bills defender to play every snap against the Jets … Todd Gurley scored a touchdown in his 13th straight game, extending his Rams franchise record. The NFL mark is 18 consecutive games with a TD, shared by LaDainian Tomlinson (2004-05) and Lenny Moore (1964-65) … The Bills won by 20-plus points and the Pats lost by 20-plus on the same day for the first time since the 2003 opener. That day, of course, the Bills blanked the Patriots, 31-0, in Orchard Park …