The Buffalo Bills have taken a lot of heat this season.
When they play bad, they are simply terrible. The defense has looked dreadful. Yards and points come far too easily for opposing offenses, and Mario Williams has been a major disappointment.
The offense has been inconsistent, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has put his position as the franchise quarterback in serious jeopardy. His play has been especially miserable of late, and the offense has managed 10 points over the past six quarters.
But believe it or not, a Week 6 win at Arizona puts Buffalo at 3-3 and right back into the thick of playoff contention. And, in case Fitzpatrick needs any more inspiration, he is playing back home in front of family and friends.
Through five games, Fitz has 12 touchdowns to go along with his eight interceptions. His decision-making has been rather shaky, and he seems to lose his composure, as he is forcing a good portion of his throws. However, a trip back home is just what Fitzpatrick needs during this rough patch.
An opportunity to refresh, unwind and focus will benefit the leader of the Bills. Fitzpatrick has yet to justify his 2011 contract extension and hasn't looked all that impressive this season. With his return home, he has a chance to spend time with old family and friends. He will have a tangible reminder of where he came from and how far he has come.
Being a starting NFL quarterback is a job that millions dream of, but only 32 have the privilege of doing. The 4-1 Cardinals will present a challenge to Fitzpatrick and his struggling Bills. However, if Fitzpatrick can come out with a certain vibe and energy, his teammates can feed off of that and step up their game.
As many yards and points as the Bills have surrendered the past two weeks, Buffalo has an opportunity to even its record this Sunday. With Fitzpatrick playing in his hometown, chances are that he will come out mentally tough and ready to fight.
The Bills clearly feed off of Fitzpatrick. When he sacrifices his body for a first down, he only gains respect. This weekend presents an opportunity for Buffalo to turn its season around, and it all starts with their quarterback. If Fitz makes the smart, safe throws, everything will work itself out. With Fitzpatrick being a streaky passer, all he needs is a solid start to gain some confidence and play like a franchise player.
Losing Sunday is not an option for Buffalo if it plans on being in playoff contention this year.
There is no better time for the Bills to step up Sunday. And for Fitzpatrick, there is no better place for it to happen.