Bills Midway Awards: Offensive MVP

Who is the Bills MVP at the midway point of the 2014 season? Kyle Orton and Sammy Watkins are the only two candidates at this point, and the starting quarterback gets the nod. Take a look at how well Orton has performed in his first four starts with the Buffalo Bills.

It’d be pretty easy to give this award to Sammy Watkins and call it a day. Watkins has 590 yards and five touchdowns on 38 receptions. He’s won Pepsi’s Rookie of the Week three times and was named the Offensive Rookie of the Month by the NFL. Watkins has played a pretty significant role in four of Buffalo’s five victories as well. So who deserves this award more than Sammy Watkins?

Kyle Orton.

There was a time when Orton didn’t even know if he was going to play football in 2014. When the Buffalo Bills signed Orton, it was after training camp and the preseason. He joined the team and said all the right things. He mentioned numerous times, that it was E.J. Manuel’s team and he was just here to help and provide a veteran presence. He said and did all the right things to support the team. Then, Doug Marrone saw enough from Manuel in a game the Bills should have won against the Houston Texans. It was decided after that Week 4 loss that Orton was going to be the team’s quarterback.

There were no shortage of jokes when the Bills named Orton starter. There were many critics who said that Orton wouldn’t fare much better than Manuel and the move just hindered Manuel’s progression as an NFL quarterback.

Since Orton took over as Buffalo’s starting quarterback, the team is 3-1 and 2-0 on the road. Orton deserves a lot of the credit for the team’s success.

His first start was against a Detroit Lions team that was one of the best in the league against the run and pass. Orton completed 30-of-43 passes (69.8 completion percentage) for 308 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His 20 yard completion late in the game to Watkins set up Dan Carpenter’s 58-yard field goal.

Teams will adjust. It was his first start of the year.

The Bills lost their next matchup to the Patriots 37-22, but Orton had the Bills within eight points late in the game. Buffalo’s defense gave up too many big plays and Orton and the Bills couldn’t keep up. He finished the game 24-of-38 for 299 yards, two touchdown and one interception.

The following week was ugly. There’s no way around it. Buffalo lost their top two running backs and the Minnesota Vikings were able to sack Orton six times.  It looked like the Bills were going to fall at home to a less-talented Vikings squad. Then, Orton put together one of the best drives in the NFL this season. He completed eight passes for 105 yards on the drive thanks to sacks and penalties. Orton converted first downs on a 4th and 20, a 3rd and 12 and a 2nd and 20. The drive ended with Orton completing a two yard pass to Watkins for a touchdown with one second remaining. The Bills won 17-16 and Orton finished the game 31-of-43 (72.1 completion percentage) with 283 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception.

In Week 8, Orton picked apart the New York Jets. He only had 17 pass attempts on the game, but he completed 10 of them (58.8 completion percentage) for 238 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-23 drubbing. Forty percent of Orton’s passes went for a touchdown against New York, and we were one Watkins gaffe away from it being 50 percent. Orton’s completion percentage and yards were his lowest of the season, but he was outstanding on the road. It was Buffalo’s first victory over the Jets in New Jersey since 2009, and their first victory at MetLife Stadium.

Through four weeks, Orton has completed 95-of-141 passes (67.4 completion percentage) for 1,128 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. What makes his performance even more impressive is that Orton and the team’s passing attack is carrying the offense. Buffalo’s rushing offense has had 302 rushing yards on 96 run plays, a 3.15 yard per carry average.

Buffalo’s second half schedule is very difficult. There’s no denying that Orton will have to be great for the Bills to make the playoffs. That said, as long as the Bills have a quarterback who can throw a football “over them mountains,” they have a chance.

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