Falcons seek to warm up against Bills in Toronto
TORONTO (AP) — "Matty Ice" might be in for a nickname change after the
Falcons quarterback acknowledged he's no fan of cold weather.
Matt Ryan made the not-so-surprising revelation upon hearing how the
warm-weather Falcons (2-9) will avoid the wintry elements in Buffalo on
Sunday. They'll instead face the Bills (4-7) in Toronto's
climate-controlled, domed Rogers Centre in Buffalo's annual "home" game
north of the border.
"Buffalo is supposed to get hammered with snow today, so it is good
it's in a dome," Ryan said Wednesday.
Just don't try to get him to suggest the setting provides an edge to
Atlanta, a team accustomed to playing indoors, and which is 0-5 on the
road this season.
"I think it's an advantage for both teams, to be honest with you," Ryan
It was a diplomatic response that runs contrary to what Bills players
believe after watching the snow pile up outside Ralph Wilson Stadium.
As receiver Stevie Johnson suggested: "They must have fixed the
schedule or something out there in Atlanta. It's supposed to be out
here at the Ralph."
Coming off their bye week still on the fringes of the AFC playoff race,
the Bills will begin their late-season push at a neutral setting that
lacks the blustery and raucous atmosphere at Orchard Park, N.Y. The
Toronto games don't sell out, and fans who do attend aren't all Bills
That's the break the Falcons, who have lost five straight, should get
during a season in which little has gone right for a team that went
from preseason Super Bowl contenders to the first team eliminated from
"We'll anticipate going into where it's going to be really loud and
difficult for us to communicate," Ryan said.
He laughed when informed there usually isn't much noise in the
"Well, OK," Ryan said. "We're going to prepare for it just in case. But
thanks for the heads-up."
Here's five more things to watch for:
HEALTHY BILLS: For the first time this season, Bills coach Doug Marrone
isn't ruling out anyone due to injury.
Johnson, who missed one game with a groin injury, and fellow receiver
Robert Woods, who missed two with a sprained ankle, are set to return.
The week off also provided running backs C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee) additional time to heal.
Marrone dismissed a question about whether any players had any setbacks
"Nope," he said. "Don't jinx us."
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (back), listed as questionable, was a
late addition to the injury report.
LIMPING FALCONS: Injuries have played a significant role in the
Falcons' struggles this year. They have four starters on injured
reserve, including leading receiver Julio Jones (foot). Other regulars
have also missed time, including receiver Roddy White, running back
Steven Jackson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
"We've been in ballgames with the guys that we've had out there. We
just haven't made the plays," Ryan said. "But it's certainly tough to
replace those guys."
CROWDING THE LINE: Ryan has noticed opposing defenses crowding the line
of scrimmage since Jones, his deep threat, sustained a season-ending
foot injury on Oct. 7.
Ryan's numbers have dropped, too. He's thrown 18 touchdowns and 12
interceptions, two short of matching his career high. He faces an
attacking defense that is tied for the NFL lead with 16 interceptions
and 37 sacks.
Upon expressing relief to be playing indoors, Ryan added: "Then you
turn on the film and watch the Bills' defense and realize that there is
ON THE RUN: Spiller said his ankle feels at its best since he sprained
it in Week 4. That gives Spiller belief he might finally be ready to
"rock and roll," as he put it, after combining for 29 yards rushing in
his past two games.
The indoor setting and Atlanta's porous run defense might help, too.
Atlanta ranks 28th against the run, and has allowed an average 149
yards rushing over its past eight.
FORD FACTOR: Marrone was unaware of the headline-grabbing international
attention Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has attracted since admitting to
smoking crack cocaine while he was in a drunken stupor.
"Really?" Marrone said. "Last time I checked that's illegal, so
hopefully he can find a way to help himself."
Ford, an avid football fan, could well be in attendance Sunday.
What should have been a battle of NFC kingpins is now a matchup of teams searching for answers. The…