The 2017 Atlanta Falcons look to become only the fourth Super Bowl loser to start the following season 4-0. To make that a reality, they must get past the 2-1 Buffalo Bills.
After a nail biting road win last week in Detroit, the Falcons return to Atlanta for some home cooking. Their opponent, the Buffalo Bills, is fresh off a dominating home win versus the formerly unbeaten Denver Broncos.
As a result, this Sunday’s matchup has a bit more added intrigue than it did a week ago.
To help us preview the game, we’ve enlisted the help of die-hard Bills fan Adam James. Adam, better known as Jibbstradamus on Twitter, is a freelance NFL writer specializing in the NFL draft.
His written work can be found here and you can follow the rest of his flaming hot takes on Twitter @JibberJabberin.
Question #1. The Bills underwent a lot of turnover this past offseason with a head coach and general manager change. What differences have you noticed with this Bills team under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane?
Adam James: I think the most notable difference has been team discipline. Penalties and penalty yards per game are down this year, and I think it shows in the way the defense has played as well.
McDermott’s zone-heavy scheme stresses discipline and sticking to assignment, and so far the Bills lead the league in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) as well as points per play. And speaking of McDermott’s zone scheme, the pass defense has appeared to benefit the most from the revamped coaching staff.
Opponents are averaging just 8.7 yards per completion, good for 6th best in the league and down from 11.7 last year. The run defense has also benefited from the switch to a 4-3, but this is an almost entirely new secondary which makes their performance that much more impressive.
Matt Karoly: Sean McDermott came to the Buffalo Bills organization in the midst of a front office frenzy. Ultimately, ownership decided to move on from former general manager Doug Whaley the Monday following the NFL Draft. In came McDermott’s Carolina cohort Brandon Beane, formerly the assistant general manager of the Panthers from 2015-2016.
Beane wasted little time leaving his mark on his new team. He quickly dispatched of number one wide receiver Sammy Watkins and number one cornerback Ronald Darby in favor of draft picks and obvious downgrades at those positions in Jordan Matthews and EJ Gaines, respectively.
2018 will be the year the Bills’ vision is fully realized when they cash in on all those picks. As for now, Buffalo remains a ball-control offense with a physical defense led by their front four. Think of them as Carolina Panthers Lite.