Bills' bye-week questions: EJ Manuel

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
5:00
AM ET
The Buffalo Bills are on their bye week, and throughout the week, we'll take a look at some of the biggest questions the team will face in the final five games of the season.

Manuel
First on the docket: Can EJ Manuel sustain the momentum he built in Sunday's win over the New York Jets?

The 37-14 victory was Manuel's best performance of the season. His 76.2 QBR was sixth-best in the NFL last weekend, not counting Monday night's game, while his 121.9 passer rating was third-best.

It's worth noting that the Jets' pass defense was ranked in the bottom third of the league entering the game, allowing opposing quarterbacks to average a 55.5 QBR and a 90.7 passer rating. But that shouldn't diminish a performance in which Manuel protected the football and kept the pressure off a defense that has been stressed at points this season.

Moving forward, Manuel should have his full complement of offensive weapons healthy when he next plays on Dec. 1. The Bills' tilt in Toronto with the Atlanta Falcons will begin a three-game stretch in which Buffalo plays some of the NFL's worst pass defenses: Atlanta (32nd in opposing QBR), Tampa Bay (27th), and Jacksonville (31st).

But again, it's worth noting: When Manuel couldn't top 100 yards passing until the fourth quarter two weeks ago, it came against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that entered the game allowing an opposing QBR of 69.3, third-worst in the NFL.

So there's some suspense here. Manuel still has a lot to prove in what's left of this season. He's yet to win on the road, and four of the Bills' final five games will be away from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

What are the stakes, then, for how Manuel performs down the stretch?

That's tough to tell. Even in a worst-case scenario, where Manuel regresses from Sunday's performance and strings together horrid outings to close out this season, he's still going to be in the mix to be the opening-day starter next season.

In the best-case scenario for the Bills, Manuel will continue to make strides and show confidence, benefited by the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. That would leave zero doubt about his status as the starter for 2014 and begin to put other teams on notice.

Let's see what happens.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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