The Bills switch from Tyrod Taylor to Nathan Peterman changes the AFC playoff picture

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Nathan Peterman
ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Nathan Peterman /

The Buffalo Bills have announced that Nathan Peterman is their new starting quarterback, although they remain “confident” in Tyrod Taylor.

The Buffalo Bills announced a major change at the game’s most important position on Wednesday in a shift that will change the entire AFC playoff chase in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Tyrod Taylor, the starter, has now been benched going forward for rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman heading into Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers

This is a huge move for the Bills and it’s hard not to love it if you’re a fan of any other team other than Buffalo. For sure, Sean McDermott and company want to see what they have in their fifth round rookie and they wouldn’t make the move unless they believed their fifth round pick was ready. Peterman came into the league with an accurate arm and intelligent approach, so it’s not surprising to see him ascend the ladder at some point, but the Bills are in a wild hunt and control their own destiny as a wild card team, so it’s an odd move to shift to a rookie.

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Peterman replaced Taylor in the game during the Saints 47-10 shellacking of the Bills in Week 10 after Taylor had completed only 9 of 18 passes with 0 touchdowns and a single interception. However, on the season, Taylor has a career-high completion rate of 64 percent with 10 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. He also has the Bills competing in a year that everyone believed was destined for a rebuild.

Peterman fared better against the Saints in garbage time, completing 7 of 10 passes with the only touchdown for the Bills on the day and no interceptions.

If the Bills are going to make the shift, it’s wise to announce it early and give Peterman a full vote of confidence in the press and let it be known all over so there’s no distraction or controversy in the locker room. Peterman will need every ounce of starters reps in practice and to be the primary figure in film study as the coaches prepare him for the next few weeks.

What makes this so important is that the Bills are now 5-4, fading after two games but certainly still in control of their own playoff destiny. While the New England Patriots are beginning to run away with the AFC East, as normal, the reality is that the rest of the entire conference is pretty much mediocre or worse. The entire AFC West is under .500 except for the Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC North looks the same other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are jostling for a division title, but that still leaves a single wild card for whichever team can get hot in the second half, with the Bills leading that pack.

The Bills cannot make this shift without sticking with it for a while. If you announce Peterman is your new quarterback, then you can’t put him on a short leash and pull him the first time he looks like a real rookie out there. He will need to grow with each new game, which likely makes this a permanent change for the rest of 2017 at least.

For the Bills, these next seven games might provide an important audition as they figure out what they want to do for the long-term at the position. In the short-term, however, they’ve likely forfeited their playoff positioning. A rookie is going to play like a rookie the majority of the time, and the Chargers are likely licking their chops knowing that Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram get to make a rookie like Peterman nervous versus having to deal with the running threat of Tyrod Taylor slipping through the pocket.

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The same can be said of the following week when the Chiefs play the Bills in a contest that once looked like the hardest game left for Kansas City on the schedule. Give Andy Reid a full week to figure out how to make a rookie quarterback nervous and the result is a likely win.

Every team from here on out is going to feel the same until Peterman proves himself, and that’s not likely to happen in time for the Bills to hold on.