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Bills Lead With Sacks, Sacked

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Geno Smith of the New York Jets is sacked during NFL game action by Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov. 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.
Geno Smith of the New York Jets is sacked during NFL game action by Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov. 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.

The Buffalo Bills are touting their statistics on sacks in the league, after breaking a franchise record of 50 in one season. With a new record of 56 sacks this season, the Bills have shown that they have something going for them, even if they’re not going to the playoffs.

Buffalo should take this hollow victory and use it to address its quarterback situation for 2014. Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel – with inexperience, a knee injury, and a questionable record on interceptions and sacks – may not be the one to keep as starting quarterback. Observers wonder if he should even be second string.

In between injuries, Manuel played 10 games, winning only four. He played two-thirds more games than his second-stringer, but he doesn’t have a winning record.

Coming back from injury, Manuel faced off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and threw four interceptions. In the same game, he was sacked seven times. The Bills will play the New England Patriots in their final game this season, and back-up quarterback Thad Lewis will take Manuel’s place.

“The decision with E.J. is very simple,” said Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone this week. “At the end of the day, the decision process was injury-related, and he was not able to do the things at 100 percent that, in my opinion, we need to do to win this game…. I thought Thad would give us the best chance to win this game with E.J.’s injury not progressing.”

Observers aren’t sure Lewis is the one to step up to be the franchise quarterback if Buffalo backs off of Manuel: the Bills’ inability to get beyond the regular season should enable them to pick up valuable players in the next draft. Some fans think the Bills should take yet another quarterback and keep Lewis at second string.

Tellingly, Lewis’s start against the Patriots will be his fifth for the Bills this season, and he came to the Bills only in mid-season. Lewis led the team to victory over the Miami Dolphins last week, but his record for wins or losses is 2-2. With Manuel iffy all week, Lewis has prepped for New England as much as a second-string quarterback can.

“I felt like I got an ample amount of reps to be able to go out and compete,” Lewis said this week. “It’s just another opportunity to go out and make the best of it, and help this team get a win.”

Marrone spoke about Buffalo’s strong sack record and its contrasting inability to make the playoffs.

“We’re going to build on that and we’re going to get after it next year,” he said. Marrone might want to start getting after it with his draft picks in April.