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Preview: Falcons at Bills

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Buffalo Bills are only one game out of a playoff slot in the AFC, but they would have to leapfrog six teams to end a 13-year playoff drought. One factor in Buffalo's favor is a soft schedule that features four upcoming opponents with a combined record of 12-32, beginning with Sunday's contest in Toronto against the visiting Atlanta Falcons. The Bills preceded last week's bye with a 37-14 rout of the New York Jets that halted a three-game losing streak.

Only the Houston Texans are keeping Atlanta from being a landslide winner as the season's biggest bust - the Falcons have dropped five in a row to fall to a woeful 2-9. Less than a year removed from a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Atlanta is tied for the worst record in the league and finds itself jockeying for the top pick in the 2014 draft. Unlike their previous four defeats, the Falcons put up a fight in a 17-13 home loss versus New Orleans on Nov. 21.

TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Bills -3. O/U: 46

ABOUT THE FALCONS (2-9): Injuries have been a killer and the schedule hasn't made it any easier for Atlanta, which is in the midst of playing five of seven on the road - and the two home games in that span were against NFC powers Seattle and New Orleans. Still, the Falcons have not been competitive for much of the five-game skid, getting outscored by an average of 18.5 points over a four-week stretch. Quarterback Matt Ryan has struggled with a patchwork receiving corps while the defense ranks 27th in the league, allowing an average of 28.1 points.

ABOUT THE BILLS (4-7): Buffalo has endured injury problems of its own, but rookie quarterback EJ Manuel returned from a three-game absence to throw for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Jets. Running back Fred Jackson said the week off came at a good time for the Bills, who expect to have leading receiver Stevie Johnson and rookie wideout Robert Woods back in the lineup. "A lot of guys look energized and ready to go," Jackson said. "That's a good thing for us and hopefully we can use that to get down the stretch of the last five games that we have."

EXTRA POINTS

1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has five TD passes and nine interceptions during the five-game skid.

2. Buffalo is 1-4 in its five "home" games in Toronto and was steamrolled by Seattle 50-17 last season.

3. Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez has a catch in 206 consecutive games, the second-longest streak (Jerry Rice, 274) in league history.

PREDICTION: Bills 23, Falcons 20

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