Falcons face Bills in Canada


Sunday will mark the first time in franchise history that the Falcons will step outside the United States to play a regular-season game.

The 4-7 Buffalo Bills await the 2-9 Falcons for a Week 13 matchup in Toronto, Canada’s Rogers Centre, the venue commonly referred to as the “Sky Dome.”

The Bills have played eight times in Rogers Centre, including five regular-season games and three preseason games since 2008. They have struggled with a 1-4 regular-season record in the series. Their only win came in 2011 against the Redskins (23-0). Last season, Seattle beat Buffalo 50-17 in the Sky Dome.

Buffalo comes off a bye week and a 37- 14 beatdown of the New York Jets in the week prior. Quarterback E.J. Manuel returned to the starting lineup from injury and completed 20 of 28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns (121.9 QBR). While Manuel puts pres- sure on Atlanta’s pass defense, Buffalo’s seventh-ranked rushing attack features a rotating backfield with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

Wideout Stevie Johnson is expected to return from his groin injury and can play at a Pro Bowl level. Kiko Alonso, a rookie linebacker who has 10 tackles for loss, 112 total tackles and a team-high four interceptions, leads Buffalo on the defensive side of the ball. Mario Williams has a team-high 11.0 sacks this season and will require attention all game from a Falcons offensive line that allowed a season-high 5.0 sacks last week in a 17-13 loss to New Orleans.


While Atlanta has been an explosive in the past, the strength of the offense remains its ability to put together long drives. Atlanta opened the New Orleans game with a physical 10-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in Steven Jackson’s first rushing touchdown of the season. Atlanta has scored 19 times on its 26 drives this season that have lasted more than 10 plays and the Falcons’ 89 points on 10-play drives are the third most in the league.

Since 2008, Atlanta has scored on 81.4 percent of its 10-play drives (134 of 167), which ranks second in the NFL. Atlanta was held scoreless in the second half against the Saints, but when Matt Ryan had time he was on target. Ryan completed 30 of 39 passes, including a stretch of 11 straight, and finished with a season-high 76.9 completion percentage against New Orleans.

11 of Ryan’s 12 interceptions have come on the road this season and 10-of-12 have been picked off by safeties or linebackers. Since Julio Jones’ season ending injury, the Falcons have struggled producing big plays and the safeties and linebackers are able to be more aggressive. Ryan completed passes to nine different receivers last week and we should expect the ball to continue being spread out throughout the receivers.

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