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Mark Gaughan's Matchup Watch: Bills at Falcons


Bills LBs vs. Atlanta RBs

This is a rough matchup for the Bills' linebackers because running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are such good receivers out of the backfield. Atlanta has the best "base" offense in the NFL, running with either two backs or multiple tight ends 50 percent of the plays last season. QB Matt Ryan is more dangerous throwing out of the base set because the RBs and tight ends spread out and line up wide so often. Can the Bills cover the pass if Lorenzo Alexander is at linebacker? Can they stop the run if Leonard Johnson subs for Alexander as the nickel back?

Julio Jones vs. Bills DBs

It's doubtful that Atlanta's All-Pro receiver will be matched up with any one Bills cornerback, since Buffalo surely will play a safety over the top of Jones. He often lines up alone as the X receiver, which would put him across from Tre'Davious White. But Atlanta could move him into the slot against smaller Leonard Johnson. Will the Bills move their corners around? They usually don't. In the Super Bowl, New England double-teamed Jones and played man coverage on big Mohamed Sanu and 5-foot-7 slot guy Taylor Gabriel, who has 4.40 speed. White and Gaines did a good job in press coverage against Denver. It will be required again to prevent easy slants to Jones and Sanu.

Bills' OL vs. Atlanta LBs

Atlanta has a good cornerbacks and fast linebackers. Buffalo will need to outmuscle the Falcons on the ground, particularly with the inside zone plays and cutback runs. Get the fast linebackers flowing to the outside and slash behind them up the field. Get guard Richie Incognito into the second level, blocking the Falcons' smallish defenders. Chicago powered Atlanta with two tight end sets in the opener and had some success. Controlling the clock against a high-powered offense is critical.


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