NFL 2017 Week 4: Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons preview and prediction

The Bills come off an upset win over previously unbeaten Denver and try to do the same against the spotless Falcons.

The Bills stunned previously unbeaten Denver, beating them 26-16 in Buffalo to move to 2-1 on the season. Buffalo took the lead for good in a back-and-forth game late in the third quarter when Tyrod Taylor hit Charles Clay with a six-yard touchdown. In the second half, the Bills intercepted Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian twice to help seal the game. Buffalo also enjoyed a big performance by kicker Steven Hauschka, who nailed four field goals. Taylor completed 20 of 26 passes, including both Bill touchdowns.

In a battle of unbeatens in Detroit, the Falcons hung tough for a 30-26 victory over Detroit to move to 3-0. Matt Ryan overcame three interceptions to throw the go-ahead touchdown to Taylor Gabriel, giving the Falcons a seven-point lead. The game still hung in the balance late when the Lions drove down for what could have been the winning touchdown. But a potential score was nullified by instant replay, allowing Atlanta to sneak by. Devonta Freeman led the Falcons potent running attack with 106 yards and a touchdown.

Which team are you?

The optimist would say the Falcons are the lone unbeaten team in the NFC, which is a wonderful start for a team that could easily have suffered a letdown following their heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl. The pessimist would say Atlanta could easily be 1-2 right now were it not for the Bears and Lions failing at the goal line at the end of their contests with the Falcons. This game against Buffalo should help determine which is which.

Winning at less than their best

The encouraging thing about Buffalo’s upset win over Denver a week ago is that they managed it without much help from their running game, usually their bread and butter, which sputtered along at barely over two yards per carry. In particular, the team’s best offensive weapon, LeSean McCoy, has struggled in each of the last two weeks. Most likely they won’t be able to get away with another quiet outing from McCoy against the Falcons.

Receiving contrast

The Falcons are blessed with a deep, versatile corps of wideouts. Led by Julio Jones and supported ably by Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, this group can make splash plays, move the chains, and do damage in the red zone. By contrast, the Bills would probably be happy if their group of receivers could do one of those three things. Through three games, the Buffalo wideouts have managed a measly 17 catches, which is only one more than Jones has by himself.

Bills TE Charles Clay vs. SS Keanu Neal

The Falcons have limited tight end production from opponents in each of the first three weeks, in large part due to the efforts of rising star Neal. Clay isn’t the type who can stretch the field like so many of the modern day tight ends you’ll see, but he can be a big factor close to the goal line, as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns over the first three games. This should be an interesting battle when Buffalo gets close to pay dirt.

Fantasy football tip – Falcons RB Tevin Coleman

Many owners might be reluctant to put Coleman in their lineup because he doesn’t actually start for the Falcons. But he finds a way to get his each week. His 192 total yards and two touchdowns is better than the production put up by many of the bell cow backs in the league, and he’s especially dangerous at home.

Betting tip – Falcons (-9.5) 

It’s unusual to see a team at 2-1 getting 9 1/2 points. But the Falcons are a beast at home, especially on offense where the indoor environment suits them. Give the points.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 10-28 Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons will use this game to prove that the 3-0 start was more than a lucky break, controlling this contest from start to finish.

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