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Falcons offense vs Bills defense: a tougher match up than you think

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The Bills have some talent on this here D.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons offense has looked better since their week 1 struggle-fest against the Bears. Even with injuries on the offensive line, they’ve been able to put up 34 and 30 points against the Packers and Lions respectively. This week, they face another top-ranked defense in the Buffalo Bills. Let’s see how these units match-up for the game on Sunday.

Note: These assessments are based on scores from PFF Edge

In the trenches

For the Falcons, the biggest questions on this offensive line remain on the right side. With Ryan Schraeder a big question mark for Sunday, there’s a strong possibility that Ty Sambrailo will get his second straight start on the right edge. He’s been mostly underwhelming so far. Next to him, first year starter Wes Schweitzer started off very poorly but has improved his play the last two weeks. He’s still inconsistent and seems prone to the occasional mental or physical lapses. Thankfully, the rest of the line is pretty solid. Center Alex Mack is playing some of the best football of his career, while left guard Andy Levitre continues to play at a high level. Jake Matthews is having one of his strongest starts to a season, excelling in both pass protection and run blocking. Overall, this is an unstable line, but if Schraeder can return from concussion, it is a very good one with only one weakness.

The Bills have several good defensive players in their front. Kyle Williams may be in the twilight of his career, but he is still a quality player that can stop the run and disrupt the pocket in the middle. If Marcell Dareus is able to play, he too is a disruptive force. If not, Cedric Thornton is a considerable downgrade. Shaq Lawson hasn’t yet lived up as a pass rusher, but has been a solid player in stopping the run while right defensive end Jerry Hughes is a good pass rusher who is capable of putting up double-digit sacks.

Much of this match-up depends on the health of Ryan Schraeder. If he can play, the Falcons gain an advantage - even if just marginally so. If not, the Bills may have the advantage due to the instability on the right side. Because of that, we’ll call this a push for now.

Advantage: Push

The skill positions

The Falcons offense is back to being one of the best in the league. Matt Ryan is off to a relatively slow start, but figures to always be a threat to tear a defense apart. Devonta Freeman is playing at a high level and Tevin Coleman has really come on the lately. Austin Hooper was non-existent in the Lions game, but could see some favorable match-ups on Sunday. However, the Falcons real strength lies in their receiving corps. Julio Jones is still one of the best receivers in the league and will demand constant attention from the Bills secondary. Mohamed Sanu is having a strong season as well, as it appears his chemistry with Matt Ryan has improved dramatically. Taylor Gabriel appears to be fully healthy and his elite speed makes him a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. This is a very dangerous unit that can beat you on the ground and through the air.

The Bills linebacking corps appears to be a weakness at first glance. Preston Brown is a league average player in the middle Ramon Humber has been inconsistent his entire time in the league on the weakside. Lorenzo Alexander is also a decent player, but hasn’t been practicing and may not make the game on Sunday. Safety Micah Hyde is no stranger to the Falcons. He’s been an average player - at best - this year. At free safety, Jordan Poyer is having a good year so far, so he’s a name to keep an eye on. The Bills do have some promise at corner, though. Tre’Davious White has looked very good in his first three starts while E.J. Gaines is having a strong season so far as well. In nickel sets, Shareece Wright is a below average player while Leonard Johnson has been better this year than he was in the past, but is still mostly average.

Though the Bills have some intriguing pieces in their secondary, there are just too many holes to match-up comfortably with this potent Falcons offense.

Advantage: Falcons

Overall

This game will be determined by the trenches. If the Falcons right side can’t stabilize, it could limit their ability to put up points against this quality Bills defensive front. However, if they can give Ryan enough time to throw and Freeman and Coleman lanes to hit, the Falcons should be able to take advantage of this Bills linebacking corps and their secondary. Let’s hope Ryan Schraeder can come back healthy on Sunday.

Advantage: Falcons