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Scouting Report - Week 4 - Bills-Falcons


Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Charles Clay vs. Keanu Neal
Clay is second in targets on the Bills to only LeSean McCoy. This could be one of Buffalo's more favorable pass game matchups against a safety who is athletic and physical, but can give up plays in the middle of the field.

2 - EJ Gaines vs. Julio JonesJones is dealing with a back injury and was limited in practice this week, but he's still one of the premier playmakers in the NFL. Gaines has played well thus far this season, but will need a hand in coverage with receiver of this caliber.

3 – Kyle Williams vs. Andy LevitreThe five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle will square up with the former Bills guard and second-round draft choice. Williams got his first sack last week against Denver and could get some opportunities on Matt Ryan if attention is paid to Hughes and Lawson on the edges.

Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Run game
As much as Buffalo's run game has struggled the past two games, there have proven to be some lanes for Atlanta's opponents to exploit. They just haven't been exposed because all of their opponents have been behind on the scoreboard. If Buffalo's defense can prevent a fast start by the Falcons, Buffalo's run game can settle in and get to work against a defense that's allowing 4.8 yards per carry, fourth-highest in the league.

Best advantage – Red zone defenseAtlanta hasn't had a problem scoring points, but Buffalo's defense makes you earn everything you get on every single play. It's why their red zone defense ranks second in the NFL allowing touchdowns less than 30 percent of the time (28.6%). The Falcons rank an average 14th in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (60%).

Bills Number 1 Must
Prevent fast Falcons start
As mentioned above the best way for Buffalo to maximize the effectiveness of their run game is being able to lean on it through the first half of the game. That means keeping Atlanta's high-powered offense from putting up points early. The Bills defense has done well to limit points. They must do it in this game to enable the offense to stick to their game plan and exploit rushing lanes.

Scouting Eye
Nicked up defense
The Falcons defense has some nicked up starters. Chief among them is pass rushing OLB Vic Beasley. He suffered a torn hamstring and is not going to play Sunday. He accounted for 41 percent of Atlanta's sacks last season.

Also nursing an injury is DE Courtney Upshaw, who has knee and ankle injuries. He also did not play last week. Starting safety Ricardo Allen is also dealing with a concussion and may not be available for Sunday's game as well.

End zone IceMatt Ryan has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks when it comes to finding the end zone in the passing game. Ryan now has at least one touchdown pass in 22 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL. If he throws a touchdown pass against the Bills it'll be the first allowed by Buffalo this season through the air and give Ryan the longest streak of his NFL career.

Free to scoreAnother Falcon offensive player who has had no trouble finding the end zone is RB Devonta Freeman. In his 50 career games he has scored 33 times. His average of .66 touchdowns per game is fourth-best among active players. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the Falcons three games this season, and currently has a streak of seven straight games with a touchdown stretching back to last year's playoffs. That's the longest active streak in the NFL right now.

And he's an even more prolific scorer at home. In his last six home games, Freeman has 12 touchdowns (11 rush, 1 rec.).

Fortunate finishesThe Falcons are only one of two NFL clubs still unbeaten after three games. Kansas City is the other. Two of Atlanta's three wins came down to the final moments of the game. In their season opener, the Chicago Bears failed to score after a 1st-and-goal at the Falcons one-yard line with 21 seconds remaining giving Atlanta the 23-17 win.

And last week, Detroit's Golden Tate scored what was ruled a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left in the game, but it was overturned on review and a mandatory 10-second run-off ended the game as a 30-26 victory for the Falcons.

McKinley emergingThough the Falcons are not expected to have Vic Beasley in their lineup Sunday, one rookie who is helping to fill the void is first-round pick Tak McKinley. Getting more playing time with both Beasley and Upshaw injured, McKinley had a breakout game last week against the Lions.

McKinley, who got 48 snaps last week, finished with a sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass breakup.

Check out photos of memorable Bills versus Falcons games through the years.

Buffalo Chips
Stat of the week
Both the Bills and Falcons are tied for seventh in the league in big plays on offense with a total of nine. The league defines big plays as a run play of 20-yards plus, a pass play of 25-yards plus, a return of 50-plus yards or a takeaway for a score.

Quote of the week"They thrive on the big play and it all starts with the running game. It's mundane to say, but you've got to make them one dimensional. So, we have to be able to shut down the run with a seven-man box and shut a guy like Julio down the best we can."
--LB Lorenzo Alexander

Milestones in reachK Stephen Hauschka needs four field goals for 200 in his career.

RB LeSean McCoy needs two touchdowns for 75 in his career.

QB Tyrod Taylor needs 121 passing yards to reach 7,000 in his career.

Final NoteThe Falcons are tied for the NFL's worst home record against interconference opponents since 2013 with a mark of 1-7.

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