Within reach of playoffs, Bills host Falcons

Field Level Media

December 30, 2021 at 1:20 am.

The Buffalo Bills can punch their ticket to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons Sunday when they host the Atlanta Falcons.

The Bills (9-6) can secure a berth in the postseason with a win over the Falcons (7-8) and either a loss or tie by the Baltimore Ravens or a combination of setbacks involving the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.

Josh Allen is likely to play a significant role should Buffalo take care of matters on the field Sunday.

Allen threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns and added 64 rushing yards in the Bills’ 33-21 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday. The win pulled Buffalo even with New England (9-6) in terms of record, with the Bills holding the tiebreaker due to their better record in division games.

Allen could have two key cogs back on Sunday with wideouts Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

“We’ve taken about as many precautions as you can take,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “So other than that, as I said last week, I’m not sure what else you can do. Really, the guys are only in for the most part for practice time other than treatments, for those needed.”

Tight end Dawson Knox has found the end zone four times in the last five weeks to boost his career-high touchdown total to nine this season. That matches top honors on the team with Stefon Diggs, who has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks.

Diggs was complimentary of Atlanta’s jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson. The two were teammates in Minnesota for two seasons before Patterson ventured to the then-Oakland Raiders in free agency prior to the 2017 campaign.

“He’s probably the most talented person I’ve ever seen with the ball in his hand besides Adrian Peterson,” Diggs said of Patterson, who has career-high totals in rushing yards (579), receiving yards (523) and touchdowns from scrimmage (six rushing, five receiving).

“He’s up there — in my opinion because I played with him — with guys like Dalvin Cook and even those running backs. He’s like 6-2, 225 but he looks a little stronger than that. Our old coach, George Stewart, our receivers coach, used to say he’s too strong, too fast and too big. He’s one of those guys that’s extremely talented, can play all around the field and really just a generational talent.”

Patterson scored last Sunday as the Falcons collected their third win in five games with a 20-16 victory over the Detroit Lions. He has scored four touchdowns in those three victories.

Rookie Kyle Pitts had six receptions for 102 yards for the Falcons against the Lions, and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst reeled in the go-ahead 12-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter. The veteran Ryan is one touchdown pass shy of becoming the fifth quarterback with at least 20 TD passes in 13 straight seasons.

Hurst, however, joined defensive end Jonathan Bullard, safety Jaylinn Hawkins and offensive lineman Willie Beavers in being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Although Atlanta has 12 players on that list, coach Arthur Smith expressed optimism that some could return in time for Sunday’s game.

“Certainly you’re way more optimistic than you were,” Smith said. “It’s kind of ironic that we’re playing Buffalo. It was a different experience last year when we were with Tennessee playing Buffalo. The world was a different place.”

Falcons starting cornerback Fabian Moreau did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as he nurses an injury to his ribs.

Buffalo defensive tackle Vernon Butler and safety Jaquan Johnson did not participate in a walk-through practice on Wednesday due to illness. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was limited due to a knee injury.

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