INDIANAPOLIS — The Buffalo Bills couldn't wait to get rid of Ryan Fitzpatrick during the offseason.
Now, the Tennessee Titans don't know where they'd be without him.
The Harvard graduate has been Plan B for the bulk of his NFL career. Even the Bills originally brought him in as an understudy for Trent Edwards in 2009. But he thrived in a cameo role and eventually stole away the starting job in 2011.
After a hot September, Buffalo forked over a six-year, $59 million contract extension and seemingly gave Fitzpatrick the keys to the franchise. The Bills won just three games the rest of the season, however, to finish at 6-10.
After another 6-10 season in 2012, Buffalo had seen enough and released Fitzpatrick in March. The Titans quickly grabbed him up to replace Matt Hasselbeck as Jake Locker's backup.
Locker was lost to a season-ending injury three weeks ago, and Fitzpatrick will make his fifth start of the season Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"As a backup, you're the least important guy in the building until they need you," he said earlier this week during a conference call at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "Then you're the most important guy in the building. So it's a very interesting job but one that I enjoy, for sure."
The Titans (5-6) are the proud owners of the AFC's sixth and final playoff seed after a come-from-behind 23-19 victory last week at Oakland. Fitzpatrick completed 30 of 42 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, with the final score coming on a 10-yard toss to wide receiver Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining.
The suddenly reeling Indianapolis Colts (7-4), meanwhile, were dropping a 40-11 decision at Arizona. That means Tennessee can pull within one game of the AFC South lead — and strengthen its playoff hopes — with a victory Sunday.