The Bills come into Week 4 riding high after a home upset over the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos. The road doesn’t get any easier, as they travel to Atlanta to face the undefeated NFC champion Falcons, who survived a scare against the Lions to improve to 3-0. The Bills last road game didn’t end well, as Buffalo lost 9-3 against the Panthers in an all-around ugly game. In their first game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons cruised to a victory over the impressive Green Bay Packers. Playing against Atlanta will be a true test of what the Bills are made of and whether they are contenders or pretenders in 2017. They certainly have shown through the first 3 weeks that their defense is one not to be messed with. The last matchup of these two teams came in December of 2013 in Toronto, a game in which the Falcons pulled off a 34-31 win.
Buffalo’s defense stepped up once again against Denver, allowing just 16 points and picking off Trevor Siemian twice. The Bills secondary has not allowed a passing touchdown this year, but it will have its hands full against the seemingly unstoppable Falcons offense. The Falcons are led by 2016 NFL MVP QB Matt Ryan, who has thrown for 867 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Falcons receiving core is led by stud Julio Jones, who is averaging 88 yards receiving a game, to go along with Mohamed Sanu, speedster Taylor Gabriel and TE Austin Hooper, all of whom have over 100 yards receiving this year. The Falcons backfield contains a two-headed monster made up by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, both averaging over 4 yards per carry this season.
To counter this high-powered attack, the Bills bring in a defense allowing just 75 yards rushing a game and 200 yards passing, good enough for the league’s 6th best defense. The secondary, led by rookie CB Tre’Davious White and S Jordan Poyer, has been stellar. Buffalo has forced 4 interceptions this year, 3rd best in the NFL. White has played phenomenal and was honored by being named the AFC’s defensive Rookie of the Month for September, capped by a clutch interception last weekend. The defensive line has been as good as advertised, with 9 sacks through 3 games.
The problem with facing a team that can both run and pass the ball as well as the Falcons is the fear of overcommitment to one and getting burned by the other. The Falcons depth at both receiver and tight end could be too much to handle for the Bills secondary. However, Matt Ryan has proven to be human, throwing 3 interceptions already this season. The key to stopping the Falcons defense will lie in the defensive line and their ability to pressure Ryan into making bad throws. Having both Shaq Lawson and Marcell Dareus on the current injury report could be a big loss for the Bills. Turnovers could prove to be a big factor in deciding this Week 4 matchup.
On the other side of the ball, Tyrod Taylor delivered big time last week. He was an efficient 20-26 passing for 213 yards, 2 touchdowns while throwing no interceptions. The Bills rushing offense, which was supposed to be a strong suit, has been basically non-existant through 3 weeks. LeSean McCoy had just 21 yards rushing on 14 carries a week ago. Although the Bills are averaging 111 yards on the ground, much of this has not come through McCoy, but rather big chunks have come from the legs of Tyrod Taylor scrambling.
Atlanta features a stellar run defense that has allowed just 85 yards a game, meaning a lot of the offensive weight will fall upon the shoulders and right arm of Tyrod Taylor. Falcons CB Robert Alford comes into Week 4 following a stellar game against the Lions, as Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave him an 84 overall grade, allowing just 3 catches in 53 plays of coverage. Bills TE Charles Clay, one of Taylor’s favorite targets, will most likely be covered by LB De’Vondre Campbell. Campbell put up an 83.4 rated game in coverage on Lions TE Eric Ebron, according to PFF. Ebron finished with just 2 catches on 7 targets when covered by Campbell. A front seven led by Dontari Poe and Vic Beasley is nothing to scoff at, but the secondary does leave some holes for Taylor to expose. The Falcons pass defense is towards the bottom of the league, allowing 245 yards through the air per game, although their secondary has played better lately.
To knock off the Falcons, Buffalo will have to play a near perfect game on the offensive side of the ball while also forcing Matt Ryan into bad throws and capatalizing on defense. Atlanta enters Sunday as an 8 point favorite at home, as the Bills have yet to prove themselves on the road this season. For the Bills, although you don’t like to believe in moral victories, keeping this game close would be a major step. A win on the road puts the Bills in the conversation for legitimate playoff contention, as it would be the second week they would beat a previously undefeated team. Week 4 will be a week in which the Bills can define themselves in the 2017 campaign. For Atlanta, the Bills provide a good defensive challenge for their offense, and a non-conference matchup is never easy. The Falcons look to remain one of the only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, along with Kansas City. Be ready for kickoff, Sunday at 1 pm on CBS.
(Photo Credit: buffalobills.com)
Luke Owens is a freshman at Oswego State in the broadcasting program. He hopes to one day host his own TV and radio shows, while also announcing games. He roots for the Yankees, Bills, Magic, Sabres and Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @LuketheKid3 and be sure to check out his podcast, Off the Wall with Luke Owens on Soundcloud.