The Buffalo Bills are like a dozen other teams in the NFL. They sit peripherally on the playoff picture. They have talent but inconsistency. Their time's running out.
All of those facets, combined, make them a dangerous and unpredictable team to play as the Indianapolis Colts attempt to rebound from a shellacking in New England.
The Bills (4-6) play the Colts (6-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We have played well at times and we have played poorly at times,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “We have seldom played sort of in-between. We have yet to put a whole game together. Maybe the Kansas City game – the second game of the season – we hit on all phases, but we have to become more consistent to be a contender.”
Yet there were the Bills a couple weeks ago, giving New England all it could handle before losing 34-31. They didn't get blown out at Houston, losing 21-9. They're coming off a win over Miami.
The Bills have the type of offensive game, directed by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, capable of moving the ball against the Colts. Fitzpatrick can mix the run with the pass, using an explosive running back in C.J. Spiller. He has a diverse receiving crew.
While Fitzpatrick is rarely mentioned in casual conversation about the best quarterbacks, he's quietly having a strong season. Now 30, Fitzpatrick has been around the league long enough to know what works, what doesn't and how to deal with the demands of playing on the road.
More than a couple teams would love a quarterback who averages 218 yards per game, has a decent touchdown-to-interception ratio (18-10) and deals with pressure fairly well.
The Colts have a chance to get to him with some pressure. He has been sacked 18 times. But he's not shy about bouncing up and throwing again.
Fitzpatrick also knows that his most valuable offensive approach might be getting Spiller into the heart and edges of the Colts defense.
“He's a guy that can make people miss,” Fitzpatrick said. “If you get him out in space, he does a great job of setting up blocks. A lot of times guys will feel they have an angle on him to take him down on the sideline and he will quickly prove to them that they do not.”
Like his coach, Fitzpatrick believes the Bills' failures have been tied to an inability to establish consistent play from game to game or even down to down.
“There have been games we have been very good,” Fitzpatrick said. “There have been games we have been very bad. It's not just one phase of the game.”
Considering the Colts offense, ranked fourth in the NFL, has played its best games at home, the Bills may know early in the game whether they have the rhythm to pull off what would be considered an upset on the road.
Fitzpatrick is well aware that his Colts counterpart, Andrew Luck, has been at his finest in home games.
“The mental aspects of the game, the way he carries himself and the way guys respond to him, that stuff is all evident to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can go out there and have a game with a few turnovers and people get on you a little bit, but (it's) the way you respond to those turnovers.
“He's not shy to throw the ball anywhere. I was really impressed with the mental toughness in the mental aspects of his game.”
This is a game that could come down to which team is mentally stronger. The Bills and Colts have both had their moments. The one that gains the edge today keeps playoff hopes bright for another week.