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Vandermeer's View: Fitzpatrick at the helm in the crunch

Watching Ryan Mallett play for two weeks, you had to wonder if Ryan Fitzpatrick thought he might not get another shot to start. But, if anything, Fitzpatrick is resilient. A long shot as a seventh round pick out of Harvard, here he is in his 10th year, back in the saddle with a team's season on the line and an edgy fan base watching.

Bill O'Brien says Fitzpatrick has been having a good week in practice. He'll need to be sharp because it's crunch time. When we last saw him he was having a self-described bad game against Philadelphia, in essence a performance that saw him lose his gig to Mallett.

Overall, Fitzpatrick has the highest quarterback rating of his career, 87.1. That number won't put him in the top half of the league but it's still higher than Mathew Stafford, Andy Dalton and Brian Hoyer, who all have their teams at least three games over .500 and in playoff contention.

He's 14th in plays that go over 40 yards and is 10th in yards per attempt (among QBs who have completed over 100 passes). Fitzpatrick has plenty of ability. Former NFL QB and NFL Radio host Jim Miller told us on Texans Radio in the preseason that Fitzpatrick can get it done but "O'Brien has to coach the turnovers out of him."

Turnovers haven't been the biggest issue. He has eight picks and one lost fumble. But he knows he needs to make more plays than he did in his last two starts. One of them was a win over the Titans.

Yes, that was a victory. But it was a 54% completion day with five sacks. A similar performance might not get it done against an improving Zach Mettenberger and a team looking for revenge, with 'nothing to lose.'

This is a game Houston has to have to maintain a chance, albeit slim, at the post season. It's up to Fitzpatrick to come back strong and give the team a lift if this season is going to have any kind of happy ending.

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