In Week 17, the Buffalo Bills will be looking to do their part in clinching a playoff spot by defeating the visiting Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have exceeded expectations in their first season under Arthur Smith, sitting at 7-8 entering Week 17. They are currently the nine seed of the NFC, just one game back from the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Despite being just a game back, Atlanta has just a two percent chance to make the playoffs according to the New York Times.
The Falcons are a weird team in the sense that they have a middle-of-the-road record, but they really do not do anything particularly well. They are 25th in both total yards and points scored offensively, (16th in passing yards and 31st in rushing yards), while on the defensive side, they are 24th in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed (23rd in pass yards allowed and 22nd in rushing yards allowed).
Atlanta has had two standout players on offense in 2021. One of those players has been the nine-year veteran Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson has done much of the heavy lifting for the Falcons offense this season, carrying the ball 140 times for 579 yards and six scores, while also hauling in 49 catches for 523 yards and five touchdowns. Patterson has proven to be a useful gadget player for both the Falcons and many fantasy football players across the country.
The other breakout star on the Atlanta offense has been rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts leads the Falcons in both catches (64) and receiving yards (949). Pitts has certainly lived up to the pre-draft hype he received and has stepped up as Matt Ryan’s go-to option in the absence of Calvin Ridley.
The Bills are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Atlanta in the sense that they are a near-lock to make the playoffs after their crucial win over the New England Patriots last week. The offense posted 428 yards and 33 points on one of the league’s best defenses. Josh Allen threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns against an elite New England secondary, which does not bode well for Atlanta’s 23rd ranked secondary.
The Bills will see both Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but they should do their best to keep Isaiah McKenzie heavily involved, as he proved to be a difference-maker last week in Foxborough. Buffalo will also get healthier along the offensive line, with guard Jon Feliciano also coming off the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.
Buffalo’s defense redeemed themselves in a big way for their performance in the first matchup against the Patriots and had put forth their second solid effort in a row. They held New England to 288 yards of offense and intercepted Mac Jones twice. The run defense did struggle again, however, allowing 149 rushing yards. The potential opponents that the Bills could see in the playoffs all have solid ground games, so the run defense is something they need to figure out before the playoffs begin.
Final Score Prediction: Buffalo Bills 31, Atlanta Falcons 14
This is the seventh game in a row that the Bills have played a team that is a part of the playoff race in one way or another. The hardest part of Buffalo’s road to the playoffs is over. They earned an enormous win in Foxborough last week, so all they have to do is take care of business against two inferior teams at home, and the division is theirs.
The Buffalo Bills have found their footing again, and it could not have happened at a better time for them. While both they and the Falcons are still alive in their respective playoff hunt, one team has clearly been better than the other.
Buffalo’s offense and defense have both been excellent the last two weeks, and they should continue that trajectory against a Falcons team that is not all that good on either side of the ball. In what should be the least stressful game in quite some time for fans, the Buffalo Bills will defeat the Atlanta Falcons and take the next step needed to get hot heading into the playoffs.