Friday, November 29, 2013
W2W4: Falcons at Bills
By Mike Rodak
TORONTO -- The Atlanta Falcons' season is effectively over, while the Buffalo Bills' playoff chances hang by a thread. But that doesn't mean there isn't any intrigue to Sunday's game.
For a young team like the Bills, each of their final five games will be an opportunity for players to step up and stand out as the front office begins to turn its attention to the 2014 season.
December football is officially here.
Here's what to watch for:
1. Can Manuel sustain his success? This will be the biggest question for the remainder of the season. The Bills have surprisingly few holes to fill on their roster entering next season, but if they want to eventually make waves in the AFC East, they will need EJ Manuel to take the next step. Coming off his best performance of his rookie campaign, Manuel had two weeks to prepare against one of the NFL's worst defenses. Let's keep it simple: If Manuel can keep pace from his last outing against the Jets, it's a little more weight off his shoulders. If he can't, the pressure will be back on.
2. Johnson & Woods back in fold: After taking the bye week to rest their respective injuries, Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods will return to the lineup Sunday. Way back in September, when Woods and Manuel were both nominated for NFL rookie of the month, the duo was beginning to develop some chemistry. This will be their first time back on the field together. Can they pick up where they left off? With Johnson also back in the fold, the picture at wide receiver has never been more crowded, so playing time for Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham is also worth monitoring.
3. Can Kyle Williams play? Friday morning saw an unexpected addition to the Bills' injury report: Veteran Kyle Williams tweaked his back getting out of bed and is questionable for Sunday. If he can't go, it will be a blow to a Bills defensive line that is coming off perhaps its best game of the season. Williams, who had two sacks in a win against the Jets, could be replaced by Stefan Charles. The undrafted rookie is a native of Oshawa, a Toronto suburb, and played at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. The Bills are high on the 25-year old. So while Williams' injury won't do any favors for the defense, it could provide an opportunity for a closer look at a developing prospect.
4. How about this whole Toronto thing? The Bills need more than a winning effort by their team on the field. This is the sixth season they will host a game in Toronto, and at some point, they will need it to become more of a spectacle than it's been. Winning -- the Bills have lost four of their five contests north of the border -- is a big part of that, but from a business perspective, we'll be keeping an eye on the buzz surrounding the game. Is there excitement in the city for the Bills? How large is the crowd? How loud are they? Those are the some of the questions the Bills face as they look to "regionalize" their brand.