Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to continue to play as well as he did against the Cleveland Browns if Buffalo is going to continue to win games in the absence of running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
But it will be much easier for him to do so if the offensive line continues to play as well as it has in the first three weeks of the season.
How good has the O-line looked? The Bills' 6.4 yards per rush ranked No. 1 through the first two weeks, and through three weeks, Buffalo has rushed for 534 yards on 96 carries, averaging 5.56 yards per carry—a number which will likely rank in the top three in the NFL following Week 3.
Just as importantly, Fitzpatrick has yet to be sacked once on his path to going 50-of-86 passing (58.13 percent) for 581 yards (6.76 yards per pass attempt), eight touchdowns, three interceptions and a 95.16 passer rating.
For the Bills offense to continue to function as it has for the first three weeks, the men up front will need to continue to get the kind of push that has made those numbers possible.
Heck, they were getting that kind of push even when Fitzpatrick's poor play made those numbers seem like a pipe dream just two short weeks ago against the Jets.
The work of the offensive line in the running game may prove to be even more vital than their pass protection. Through two weeks, the Bills had shown an increased dependency on the running game—relatively speaking in terms of their history of run-pass balance (or lack thereof).
With two straight solid performances by Fitzpatrick, perhaps the Bills will be okay if they rely a little more heavily on the passing game than they have through the first three weeks.
But with running back Tashard Choice (311 carries, 1,347 yards (4.3 YPA) and nine touchdowns in his five-year NFL career) carrying the rock, they'll need to get a concerted effort from their offensive linemen in the running game to open up bigger holes and make life as easy as possible for their third-string running back.
Even with the great pass protection from the line, it's been up and down for Fitzpatrick through the first three games. The ups have been made much more frequent by an offensive line that looks in top form; with that kind of time in the pocket, Fitzpatrick's chances of continuing to play well increase exponentially.
The pressure mounts on both Fitzpatrick and the offensive line to continue to perform well in the absence of the top running backs on the roster.
If the Bills want to keep up with the Patriots offense next week, they'll have to hope they're able to do so.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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