Normally, I'm not one for "must-win" games. Back in 2004, I wrote the Bills off at 3-6 and they reeled off six straight wins to get back in the playoff hunt. But I'll make an exception here. If the Bills have any intention of being a playoff contender, they simply have to beat the Titans at the Ralph this Sunday.
It's a down year in the AFC. You have to beat the bad teams at home. And make no mistake, Tennessee is a bad team. The Titans are weak on both lines of scrimmage. They're last in the NFL in rushing, 26th in yards per pass, 30th in total defense and last in points allowed (the Bills are 31st).
Spare me all the talk about gut checks and character in the desert last weekend. The Bills' defense is supposed to shut down the bad teams. They should dominate the Titans. Chris Johnson has rushed for under 25 yards in four different games already. In 108 touches, he doesn't have a single play of 20 yards or more.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who hasn't beaten a good quarterback in more than a year, merely needs to outplay 37-year-old journeyman Matt Hasselbeck, who has an unremarkable group of receivers and can't beat teams down the field. Chan Gailey is losing faith in Fitz's ability to throw the ball down the middle. Fitz shouldn't need to win this game on his own. But he can't be the reason they lose it, either.
A win won't validate the Bills as a contender. They're a long way from that after their humiliating two-game skid against New England and San Francisco. But beating the Titans will give them a little momentum before the bye, and time to fix things before the two-game trip to Houston and New England. A loss would be a very disturbing sign. It would confirm them as a fraud.