ATLANTA – The Buffalo Bills will get a first-hand look at what $1.6 billion can buy Sunday.
The team visits the defending NFC champion Falcons, who are playing in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the latest palace to open in the NFL. At 3-0, Atlanta is one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL (Kansas City being the other).
Here are all the details you need for Sunday's game, plus five things we'll be watching for:
• TV: Ch. 4. Announcers: Greg Gumbel (play by play), Trent Green (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Falcons lead, 7-4. Perhaps the Bills will have better luck in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as they are just 1-4 in previous trips to Atlanta.
• Uni watch: The Bills are going with with jerseys and blue pants against the Falcons, flipping the uniform combination from last week.
• Did you know? With a win, Sean McCermott will become the first Bills' coach since Kay Stephenson in 1983 to win three of his first four games with the team.
• Next up: The Bills visit the struggling Cincinnati Bengals in Week Five.
Here are five things to watch against the Falcons:
1. Can Marcell Dareus provide something useful? One assisted tackle through the first three weeks is not a good return on investment for the Bills. Dareus counts $1 million per game on the salary cap. He’ll be back in the starting lineup after missing the Week Three win over Denver because of an ankle injury. Without him, the run defense did take a stop back against the Broncos. Dareus needs to do more than just take up space on the defensive line, though.
2. Is this the week for Shady? LeSean McCoy has said the right things about being ok with being a decoy if that’s what it takes for the Bills to win, but it’s got to be killing him that the running game has been shut down the past two weeks. There should be an opportunity against the Falcons to reverse that. Atlanta is giving up 4.8 yards per carry, which is in the bottom five of the NFL. Similar to Dareus, the Bills aren’t paying McCoy as much as they are to be a decoy.
3. Can Tre’Davious White and E.J. Gaines pass their biggest test to date? Last week against the Broncos, the Bills’ cornerback duo matched up against a pair of solid receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The challenge is even greater Sunday, though, against the Falcons’ Julio Jones, who is one of the two or three best receivers in the NFL. The play of White and Gaines has been one of the best developments for the Bills this season. Earlier in the week, White was named the NFL Rookie of the Month for September after he made a league-high seven passes defensed. He said winning Defensive Rookie of the Year was one of his goals coming into 2017, and he could take a big step in that direction if he’s able to hold Jones in check.
4. If Shaq Lawson can’t go, can Eddie Yarbrough step up? Lawson suffered a groin injury in practice Thursday and sat out the next day. Coach Sean McDermott said he will be a game-time decision. If Lawson isn’t ready to play, that means more time for Yarbrough and Ryan Davis. Atlanta is dealing with an injury of the offensive line, as right tackle Ryan Schrader is out and will be replaced by Ty Sambrailo, who struggled in a Week Three win over Detroit. Whether it’s Lawson or Yarbrough, that’s a matchup the Bills have to win.
5. Can Zay Jones get going? The Bills say they're not worried about their rookie receiver, who has just three catches for 39 yards through three games. Jones is winning his routes, according to coaches, it's just that the ball is going other places at the moment. That may be, but the second-round draft pick played the most snaps of any wide receiver last week and was targeted only twice. That's a problem. Jones needs to have his breakout game soon.