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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Bills at the bye: Three questions

By James Walker

The upstart Buffalo Bills are 4-2 at the bye and in second place in the AFC East.

Here are three issues facing the team:

1. Can Buffalo's defense improve? The Bills have consistently allowed big plays on defense. Buffalo has given up 400 yards or more in five straight games. Most times, the Bills were able to get big turnovers to negate the high number of yards. But teams are studying film and catching onto that. The New York Giants were very careful protecting the football. New York didn't have any turnovers and registered 414 yards of offense. Buffalo's defense, which is ranked No. 31, needs to stop relying on the big turnover and work on beating the man in front of them.

2. Will the Bills get healthy? Buffalo has several key players ailing. Linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot) and receiver Donald Jones (ankle) are among the starters the Bills hope to get back after the bye week. Williams and Merriman are two of the top playmakers on Buffalo's defense. Jones is the team's best deep threat on offense. Coming off the bye, the Bills will play the Washington Redskins in Toronto on Oct. 30. Buffalo is 1-1 against the NFC East and needs to be at full strength.

3. Is Fitzpatrick getting streaky? Buffalo Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't played poorly the past three weeks. But he hasn't been the same quarterback who put himself in the early MVP race, either. Buffalo has lost two of its past three games. Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in that span. In his first three games, Fitzpatrick threw nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick made a couple mistakes that were costly in the loss to the Giants. He's been hot and cold in the past. The Bills need to keep Fitzpatrick consistent for 16 games.