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Sunday, November 24, 2013
Next up for Falcons: rested Bills

By Vaughn McClure

Anyone wanting to get a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons' next opponent will have to sift through the archives at NFL Game Rewind -- as suggested by Falcons head coach Mike Smith -- because the Buffalo Bills are off this week.

Smith gave a brief breakdown of the team the 2-9 Falcons will face in Toronto next Sunday.

"They had a very big win," Smith said, referring to the Bills' 37-14 victory over the New York Jets. "They’re playing extremely hard. Offensively, they do have (tinges) of the read-option. That’s something that you have to prepare for. Their big quarterback (EJ Manuel) can spin the ball. But he can also take the ball down the line of scrimmage on the first level and run the read-option that we've seen a couple of times already this season.

"(Kiko Alonso) is a rookie linebacker out of Oregon. A very active guy. Can rush the quarterback as well as cover. I think he's a very versatile linebacker. I know that he's been very productive in the number of tackles that he’s had. I’ve even read somewhere where he was potentially a Rookie of the Year candidate. ...I know, coming out (of college), when we were doing due diligence, we liked him as a player."

Here is more on the 4-7 Bills:

Top passer: Manuel has completed 127 of 217 passes for 1,385 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Manuel also has rushed for 117 yards on 34 carries, with a long run of 19 yards. He missed four games with a LCL sprain in his right knee.

Top rushers: Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, both of whom have rushed for more than 500 yards on better than 4.1 yards per carry. Jackson, who sprained his MCL in Week 5, has 591 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Spiller, who has dealt with a high-ankle sprain, has 507 yards and one score. There seems to be a disconnect between Spiller and head coach Doug Marrone over playing time and how Spiller has been used.

Top receiver: Stevie Johnson has 41 receptions for 471 yards and three touchdowns, but Johnson missed the last game against the Jets with various injuries, including a lower-back issue. He vowed to be ready to face the Falcons after resting during the bye.

Top pass rusher: Mario Williams. The defensive end is finally playing up to the six-year, $96 million contract he signed that included $50 million guaranteed. Williams has a team-leading 11 sacks, just three away from his career-high set back in 2007 with the Houston Texans.

Top linebacker: Alonso, the guy Smith talked about in the introduction, has made a name for himself. Going into this week, the linebacker was the league's second-leading tackler (112 tackles) and tied for third in the league in interceptions (four). In other words, Matt Ryan better be aware of Alonso.

Top defensive back: Safety Jairus Byrd, who missed the first five games in the season with plantar fasciitis, is starting to regain his form. He had two interceptions in the win against the Jets. Byrd had nine interceptions as a rookie.

Top special-teamer: Kicker Dan Carpenter. He has made 22-of-24 field goals, including a 55-yarder, which was tied for the third-longest in the league going into Week 12.