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Giving Them Fitz

It's obvious to anyone who follows the Bills that Ryan Fitzpatrick is a much more confident and effective quarterback than he was earlier in his NFL career. The difference is even more dramatic when you compare Fitz's current statistics to the ones he had two years ago in Cincinnati.

After Sunday's game, Fitzpatrick has 221 completions on the season. That's exactly what he had in 2008, when he played 12 games for the Bengals in place of the injured Carson Palmer. Fitz has attempted 378 passes, six more than he did in '08. So the numbers are virtually identical. It's the results that are radically better.

Fitzpatrick has 2,526 passing yards. In 2008, he had just 1,905 yards on the same number of pass completions. That's 621 more yards, a significant improvement. His yards per attempt was a miserable 5.1 in '08. This year it's 6.7 per attempt, which is about average for the NFL. Fitz had 8 TDs and 9 interceptions that year. He has 21 TD passes and 11 picks this season.

The numbers show that Fitz has been turned loose under Chan Gailey, who trusts him to play in three- and four-wide receiver sets and throw the ball down the field. Gailey wants Fitz to take shots. He's given Fitz the assurance to keep throwing after an interception or a few errant throws. He's allowed him to be a playmaker, and the Bills' young receivers have flourished as a result.

In Cincinnati, the coaches limited Fitzpatrick and had him making a lot of safe, underneath throws. He rarely threw down the field and completed few 20-plus passes. He's a different quarterback today, much better than last year. I suspect Fitz is playing near his peak. But there's no telling whether he might make further improvements next year and solidify himself as a viable starter in the NFL.

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