Buffalo Bills

Bills should continue to start Matt Barkley regardless of Josh Allen’s health

The Buffalo Bills are going into their bye off a big win, and Matt Barkley should continue to start until further notice.

Heading into Sunday’s action, the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets game looked like one of the worst games of the day. It was, but for a different reason. The Bills started fast and beat the Jets 41-10, with Matt Barkley starting under center less than two weeks after signing.

Barkley went 15-for-25 for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and he was only sacked once in the game while posting a 117.4 passer rating. The odds he repeats that performance are somewhere between slim and none, but at 3-7 the Bills aren’t going anywhere this year.

Josh Allen missed his fourth game with an elbow injury on Sunday, but he’s still been sacked 21 times despite not starting Week 1 or completing the game where he was injured in Week 6. The rookie signal caller is in line to return after Buffalo’s Week 11 bye but there’s a case for Barkley to continue to start.

Whatever his flaws are, Allen is tabbed as the quarterback of the future in Buffalo. So his ongoing health has to be a priority, and a concussion in the third preseason game has now been added to by this elbow injury during the regular season. The decision to make Nathan Peterman the Week 1 starter was not one that was built to last. But based on the logic of protecting Allen from a David Carr-like fate taking lumps behind a talent-bare offensive line, it was justified.

Allen might be 100 percent healthy coming out of the bye, and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense has not quite been “Sackssonville” this year as the Bills get set to face them in Week 12. But the same logic that applied to starting Peterman in Week 1 applies to starting Barkley now.

Even taking into account the feeble effort from the Jets, Barkley simply played better than any Bills’ quarterback has this season. That’s not a high bar, but a nothing-to-lose mentality seemed to help Barkley provide a downfield passing threat and it’s not a coincidence running back LeSean McCoy had by far his best game of the season.

From a broad perspective, Allen would benefit from playing as his rookie season winds down but there’s a fine line between that and stunting his growth with a lack of talent around him. That’s a line the Bills have already crossed as Allen was hit and sacked a lot before suffering his elbow injury.

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As long as he’s healthy himself, and not playing at Peterman’s abysmal level, Barkley should start the final six games for the Bills. But driven mainly by a desire to get Allen back on the field as soon as possible, with Barkley not holding up his end due to an injury or the inevitable huge correction after Sunday’s performance a secondary concern, it probably won’t play out that way.

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