A week ago it seemed certain that EJ Manuel would start the season finale at New England. He was given a week to rest his ailing knee missing Buffalo's Week 16 game against Miami last Sunday. However, Manuel's left knee injury had other ideas.
Though Manuel was able to practice through the course of the week on a limited basis, he was not able to convince head coach Doug Marrone and team physicians that he could be the effective quarterback he needs to get a win on Sunday in New England.
"It was a tough decision," Marrone said. "EJ was practicing hard all week trying to come back and basically it goes back to the injury didn't progress as well as I wanted it to. He wanted to go out there and play, but I need him to play at 110-percent for us to win. So he wasn't going to be able to go out there and play at 110-percent. He could have played but not at the level that we need for us to win. Thad has done a nice job and he's the backup quarterback so we're putting him in there and he'll be the starter Sunday."
Manuel, who has had three different knee injuries has now missed six regular season games, costly snaps lost in a critical year of development. Buffalo's head coach didn't deny that the lost time on the game field is frustrating.
"I think we all, starting with EJ, have a sense of frustration but there's also a sense of excitement," Marrone said. "Here's a guy that did play 10 games and he probably practiced less than anyone else who played 10 games. There were points in those games where he played well, either won the game for us or put us in a position to win. And there were points where he did not play well. From that standpoint, there's a sense of excitement of having someone coming back, full offseason, getting ready to go and really seeing his game take off."
For Lewis it's another opportunity to help solidify himself as the team's backup quarterback heading into the 2014 season. The third-year signal caller out of Duke will make his fifth start for the Bills Sunday.
"Thad is 2-and-2 playing for us and really doing a good job," said Marrone. "We know that he's capable being that backup. It's a big game for him. As a backup, you're always trying to prove yourself. It will be very good for us to be able to go into the offseason and having, believe it or not, an experienced I guess quarterback in Thad, maybe not from the standpoint of games played, but from the standpoint of years in the league.
"He brings a lot to our football team. Our team has confidence that they can win with him and I think that's the most important thing."
Lewis is coming off a shutout victory over Miami last week. He has thrown for 845 yards this season and has completed just over 60 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
"The preparation was great. I felt like I got an ample amount of reps to be able to go out and compete," said Lewis. "It's another great opportunity to try to go out and help this team get a win."