With the postseason a non-issue for the Bills with two games to play, pride is one of the few motivators left for the men in Buffalo's locker room. For those players on offense however, there is another. Getting Fred Jackson a1,000-yard rushing season.
After Jackson's 80-yard performance on just 15 carries last week (5.3 avg.) the multi-faceted running back has 811 yards rushing on the season. A couple of big rushing days over Buffalo's final two games could get him to the benchmark1,000 yards.
Not one to focus on individual goals, Jackson has done whatever the team has asked of him this season as he leads the team in rushing, is second in receptions and third in scoring among non-kickers on the roster. But ignoring the 1,000-yard mark has been difficult with his twin brother Patrick constantly updating him.
"It's something I'm aware of," Jackson admitted. "My brother more than anybody keeps me updated on how close I am. It would be a good way to finish the season. With us not being able to go to the playoffs that's definitely something that's in striking distance."
Jackson would practically need a pair of 100-yard rushing performances against the Falcons and Colts over the final two weeks or a monster game against one of those opponents and a decent outing against the other to reach 1,000 yards.
Atlanta ranks 20th against the run giving up over 116 yards on the ground per game, while the Colts rank 16th.
Getting Jackson to 1,000 yards is a quality motivator for Buffalo's offensive line. Maligned for much of the year and forced to deal with a myriad of losses to injury, having a back with a 1,000-yard rushing season would be one accomplishment the men on the Bills' line could be proud of.
"That's kind of what an offensive lineman hangs their hat on, fewest sacks allowed and rushing yards," said guard Andy Levitre. "If we can get him to 1,000 that would be great. That's something we can look forward to working toward these last two games."
Jackson got off to a great start at the beginning of the season rushing for 291 yards over the first three games as the team's feature back when tailback partner Marshawn Lynch was serving a league suspension. Over those first three games Jackson was averaging 97 yards rushing per game.
That figure plummeted to less than half that total since Lynch has returned. Jackson has averaged just 47 yards rushing in games in which Lynch and Jackson have played this season.
The number of carries for the running game in general has been compromised by the offense's inability to sustain drives and score points. Buffalo has run the fewest offensive plays from scrimmage this season (751) and average just over 53 offensive plays per game (53.6). The NFL average for offensive plays per game is almost 61 (60.7). Through 14 games the Bills have run almost 100 fewer plays on offense than the league average.
That takes away opportunities for Jackson to be even more productive for the offense than he has been this season.
"We try to get Fred the ball as much as we possibly can because he is very productive," said interim head coach Perry Fewell. "He runs the ball on offense effectively, he kick returns effectively. As much as we can be creative and get him touches, we get him touches. Obviously we'd love to score more points and that's a thorn in our side right now. But Fred Jackson is a productive football player."
That's why getting Jackson to 1,000 yards rushing despite all the struggles the offense has gone through this season would be such a positive for that side of the ball.
"With the struggles that our offensive line has gone through, that's something they could be proud of if I'm able to get 1,000 yards," said Jackson. "They can say despite all their struggles that they were at least able to produce that. It's something that I definitely want to do and more than anything I want to do it for those guys."
Jackson hasn't said much to his linemen this season, but with the playoffs now off the table he intends to speak to them this week to give them the 1,000-yard mark as an added goal and incentive to shoot for over these last two games. But it doesn't sound like Buffalo's linemen will need any prodding.
"I'm ready to go get it," said Levitre. "I'm hoping we can go get it this week and then we can work toward another goal."
Should Jackson reach the 1,000-yard mark this season, it's a total that won't be lost on the running back that has done anything and everything for his team this season. And it sounds like there would be a reward in it for Buffalo's men up front.
"It'd be huge for me," Jackson said. "It would be my first career 1,000-yard season. It would be something I'd be proud of and I'd definitely do something for the offensive linemen. Everyone that had a part in it I'd do something for them."