Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 11/26/11

Just nine short weeks ago the Bills were the toast of the AFC coming off of an impressive win against division foe and perennial bully the New England Patriots. The Bills were in control of the AFC East and it appeared their destiny. Fast forward five weeks and following the Bills dismantling of the Washington Redskins they were sitting at 5-2 and atop the AFC East. The future looked bright and a fan base long suffering since Jim Kelly left town and falling victim in the Music City Miracle again had hope.

Through their first seven games Buffalo averaged just over 30 points a game while yielding only 21 a game. The offense was getting done and the defense while giving up points was very opportunistic with 18 take-aways through seven games. Sitting at 5-2 with a 2-1 turnover ratio and a signature win under the belt If they were living on borrowed time it sure was difficult to tell.

That has all changed. A fast start gave the Bills promise they hadn't had in years, but a memorable September has given way to a miserable November. Now twelve weeks the Bills are sitting at 5-5 heading into a crucial game at the New York Jets where if they lose will fall to 3rd place in the AFC East only two games ahead of the 3-8 Miami Dolphins. With five of their remaining six games against teams fighting for the playoffs Buffalo needs to stop this slide. Now.

So what happened? What turned on of the feel good stories of the year into a nightmare? Has one of the youngriest teams in the league lost their appetite?

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shoulder a lot of the blame for Buffalo's current three-game losing streak, just as he deserved credit when the Bills (5-5) won four of their first five games. Fitzpatrick threw for 14 touchdowns in Buffalo's first seven games, a major factor in the team's decision to sign him to a six-year, $59 million contract on Oct. 29.

Fitzpatrick has slumped badly since, and the Bills have followed suite. Since signing his extension, the Amish Assassin has gone into hiding, throwing just four touchdowns against eight interceptions in four games. His quarterback rating has been lower than 52 in each of the last three games, a stretch in which the Bills have been outscored 106-26. Protection issues have not helped the situation.

Looking deeper once must agree that it does not all fall on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo is falling to pieces under the combined weight of injuries after their hot start to the season.

Piling it on in the midst of this three-game skid Buffalo's once promising season took another blow when the team announced Wednesday that Fred Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his lower right leg.

Third in the NFL with 934 rushing yards, Jackson was on pace for a career season. Now, the Bills turn to underachieving 2010 first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who has run for 398 yards and one touchdown on 95 carries in 24 career games.

Star receiver Stevie Johnson has been held to seven receptions over the past three games after compiling 39 in the first seven contests. He has 11 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown in his last three games versus New York.

Then there is the defensive side of the ball. After forcing 18 turnovers over the first seven games the same unit has only two in their last three games. Adding to that, or maybe because of that the Bills have given up an average of 35+ points per game during the losing streak. They have lost starting cornerback Terrence McGee to the IR to make matters worse.

In all honesty we should not be surprised at the recent turn of events. Yes Buffalo is a much improved team and yes they have been a great story in the NFL this season. But this is the same quarterback who is onto his third team, first one as a full time starter. It does not mean Ryan Fitzpatrick is a bad quarterback, just that he might not be the Top 10 quarterback he was playing like for eight weeks. That’s one side of the ball.

On the other side you have a defense that was getting pushed around pretty well even when they were winning. Giving up over 20 points and well over 400 yards a game. In reality the yardage has gone down in the last three games but the turnovers have nearly gone away completely. As a result the points…and loses have gone up.

The Wild Card is a distant possibility at this point but the AFC East crown is still within reach. If this feel good story is to have a happy ending perhaps the Buffalo Bills need to believe again in the magic that started there fairy tale season. That at remember what good quality football looks like.

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This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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