In announcing Trent Edwards will miss his second straight game since suffering a concussion, coach Dick Jauron on Monday opened the door for a midseason quarterback shuffle by refusing to commit to who'll start once Edwards is healthy enough to play.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Jauron said, a day after Fitzpatrick helped lead the Bills (3-4) to a 20-9 win at Carolina. It was Buffalo's second straight victory, and second in a row for Fitzpatrick since taking over after Edwards was hurt in the second quarter of a 16-13 overtime win at the New York Jets the previous week.
The Bills host Houston on Sunday then have their bye, which will either provide Edwards an additional week of rest or allow Fitzpatrick extra time to become more accustomed to the offense.
In another sign that Fitzpatrick may have gained the edge with the coach, Jauron forgot to even mention Edwards when reviewing his list of injured players.
"I'm trying to think if there are any more," Jauron said, before a reporter reminded him about Edwards.
It was at that point, Jauron ruled out Edwards from playing. He added Edwards has been cleared to work out this week, but noted the team is taking a "conservative approach" in dealing with a player who sustained his second concussion in a little over a year.
Edwards has struggled, going 3-9 in the last 12 games he's taken a majority of snaps. Fitzpatrick, signed by Buffalo as a free agent this offseason, by comparison has won five straight, including going 3-0 to close last year with Cincinnati while filling in for injured starter Carson Palmer.
Fitzpatrick hasn't exactly produced eye-popping numbers in going 21 of 47 for 239 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in place of Edwards. But the fifth-year player is being credited for being efficient by protecting the ball, for taking shots down field and producing scoring drives by taking advantage of a turnover-happy defense.
Jauron credited Fitzpatrick for how he "managed the game" against Carolina, even though the Bills offense generated 167 yards and nine first downs.
"The key thing in that game for us was that we protected the football," Jauron said. "I thought Ryan handled the game well. I thought he put us into things we needed to be. They weren't always successful, but he got us in them."
Against the Panthers, Fitzpatrick finished 11 of 22 for 123 yards passing and a touchdown, when he threaded a 2-yard pass to Evans early in the fourth quarter. Another key play came on the following drive when Fitzpatrick hit Evans for a 50-yard pass that eventually set up Rian Lindell's 29-yard field goal to put the Bills up 17-2.
All four of Buffalo's scoring drives were set up by turnovers, including both touchdowns, which came after interceptions by rookie safety Jairus Byrd.
A second-round draft pick out of Oregon, Byrd has five interceptions this season to rank second in the NFL, one behind Saints veteran Darren Sharper.
The Bills are accustomed to midseason quarterback shuffles. That's how Edwards got the job as a rookie in 2007, when he replaced J.P. Losman.
Jauron, coming off three straight 7-9 finishes with Buffalo, is not afraid to make changes. In the two weeks leading up to the start of the season, Jauron fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert and cut starting left tackle Langston Walker.
Jauron said starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee) and fullback Corey McIntyre (ankle) are having more tests to determine the severity of their injuries after both were hurt against Carolina. Starting safeties Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott have a chance to play this week after missing Sunday's game with ankle injuries.