Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At Buffalo Bills
- QuarterbackThere is little doubt that the season has been one of misery for the Falcons, head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite all the problems, owner Arthur Blank has said that Smith will be back and Smith is clearly married to Ryan. So, while other coach-QB combinations of 2-9 teams are often getting prepared to polish their resumes, this pair is safe and secure for the holidays.The Bills are one of those teams that remain off the radar, but they have a chance to gain a spot in the playoffs if they can win in the second half of the season. Quarterback E.J. Manuel has been a positive addition to the team and the Bills seem to have confidence in the rookie signal caller. Manuel has completed 58.5 percent of his passes and has an 8-4 TD-interception ratio.
- OffenseInjuries to Steven Jackson kept the Falcons from having a productive power running game this season. The Falcons were hoping a consistent ground attack would take some of the pressure off of Julio Jones and Roddy White. That dynamic pair has spent much of the season on the injury list. Tony Gonzalez is still a productive tight end.The Bills have the kind of running game that can take a ton of pressure off of a young quarterback. Fred Jackson is a versatile runner who can go inside or outside, while C.J. Spiller has the speed to break long plays. Stevie Johnson is a legitimate gamebreaker, but he does not perform at top level with consistency. Marquise Goodwin has a ton of speed and can get deep while tight end Scott Chandler is dependable.
- DefenseThe Falcons were nasty and feisty on defense a year ago, but that type of attitude and play is a vague memory. The Falcons rank 27th overall and they tend to get pushed around quite a bit because they don’t have the size and strength needed and their compete level is disappointing. Linebacker Paul Worrilow has only started seven games but he leads the team with 11 tackles.The Bills are middle-of-the-road defensively as they rank 15th in yards allowed, but they tend to play better at home than they do on the road. The Bills make up for hustle and grit what they lack in talent. Linebacker Kiko Alonso has been having a sensational year with 112 tackles, eight passes defensed and four interceptions. Defensive end Mario Williams has 11.0 sacks but does not play well against the run.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons have done a good job of containing opponents on kickoff and punt returns, but they haven’t had a return longer than 34 yards all season and that’s not good enough. Veteran placekicker Matt Bryant remains dependable, having made 17-of-19 FG attempts.The Bills have not always contained opponents and they have given up some decent returns this year. That’s a problem for rookie head coach Doug Marrone. Dan Carpenter has done a solid job, making 22-of-24 FG attempts, including 3-of-4 from 50 yards or more.
The Bills are working hard every week and they have a chance to earn a postseason berth. The Falcons are one of the two most disappointing teams in the league – the Texans are the other – and they are likely to struggle against an opponent that hustles.