Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SURFACE: Artificial turf
TV: CBS (Bill Macatee, Steve Beuerlein)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills' passing game has been anemic all season, and now Buffalo could be forced to give QB Brian Brohm his first career start with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards battling ankle injuries. That means RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are going to face a constant flow of eight- and nine-man fronts. The Falcons would be wise to attack Buffalo's 32nd-ranked run defense, but RB Michael Turner (ankle) continues to be hobbled. QB Matt Ryan will make his second consecutive start, and will have to be judicious with the ball with the Bills leading the league with 26 interceptions.
FAST FACTS: The Bills haven't won in Atlanta since the teams' first meeting in 1973. ... Atlanta has lost consecutive home games for the first time under coach Mike Smith.
--QB Brian Brohm took all the repetitions with the first unit on Thursday and it appears he will start Sunday's game at Atlanta. Coach Perry Fewell may not make a decision until game time when he evaluates how veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick warms up. Fitzpatrick injured his ankle in last Sunday's loss to New England.
--LB Bryan Scott missed his second day of practice after suffering a concussion last Sunday against New England. He is doubtful for Sunday's game at Atlanta.
--CB Drayton Florence missed Thursday's practice due to an illness. He should be fine for Sunday's game at Atlanta.
--WR James Hardy, who was expected to get more playing time Sunday in Atlanta, did not practice due to an illness. Missing time will hurt his chances of garnering more reps but he should be dressed for the game.
--LB Ashlee Palmer was limited with a sore ankle. He's expected to start Sunday's game at Atlanta with Bryan Scott recovering from a concussion suffered last week against New England.
--QB Matt Ryan (turf toe) participated in his first practice of the week on a limited basis Thursday. He was off on Wednesday in order "to let that toe settle down," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
--RB Michael Turner (right high ankle sprain) did not practice and is unlikely to play this week against the Buffalo Bills.
--CB Chris Houston (hamstring) did not practice on Thursday and is unlikely to play against the Buffalo Bills.
--RG Harvey Dahl (ankle) practiced Wednesday and Thursday on a limited basis. He was replaced in the lineup last week by Quinn Ojinnaka.
--C Todd McClure is set to make his 127th consecutive starter.
--LB Michael Peterson is five tackles away from 1,500 career tackles.
--TE Tony Gonzalez needs six catches in order to achieve 1,000 career catches.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Quarterback Brian Brohm moved one step closer to making his first NFL start on Thursday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the team's starter the past five games, and backup Trent Edwards, each did not practice for a second consecutive day due to ankle injuries suffered in last Sunday's loss to New England.
Brohm took all the repetitions with the first unit for a second day in a row. While interim coach Perry Fewell refuses to rule Fitzpatrick out for Sunday's game at Atlanta, missing two critical installation days makes Fitzpatrick a long shot to start the game.
Furthermore, there is a general desire within the organization to see Brohm in action. The former second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers was signed by the Bills off the Packers' practice squad last month. He was a standout at the University of Louisville. If Brohm shows something in the final two games of the season, it could influence how the Bills address their quarterback situation in the offseason.
Brohm understands the magnitude of starting Sunday if the opportunity presents itself.
"Everybody just wants an opportunity, and, if I get the opportunity on Sunday to play, I need to seize it and try to make the most of it," he said.
The Bills would have to operate a scaled-back version of their offense against the Falcons defense, which ranks 28th overall and ranks 30th against the pass. The Falcons do have a decent pass rush, however, and the linebacker corps is solid with the likes of Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson.
Fitzpatrick did a little more throwing on Thursday but it is still awkward for him to backpedal, plant and throw. Edwards has a high-ankle sprain and is definitely unavailable to play. Gibran Hamdad, re-signed this week after being cut to make room for Brohm, is strictly an emergency option.
For two days, Brohm has gotten used to throwing to Buffalo's starting receivers instead of the backups on scout team.
"I definitely had an idea (about the offense), and being around the last five weeks, just getting a feel for the offense and knowing the route concepts, but it's totally different when you actually get the reps and see the receivers run the routes live," Brohm said. "Before now I've been throwing to James (Hardy) and Justin Jenkins the whole time, so to get those reps with Lee (Evans) and Terrell (Owens), I have to get a feel for how they run their routes."
The Falcons knew when they drafted Lawrence Sidbury that he would have a steep learning curve.
He lasted until the fourth round in part because he would be trying to make the jump from Richmond, which plays in Division I-AA (now called the Football Championship Subdivision).
The Falcons went through the same process last season with Kroy Bierman, who was making the jump from Montana to the NFL.
Biermann was brought along slowly and started to show progress toward the end of his rookie season.
Sidbury, following that same blueprint, is starting to blossom late in the season for the Falcons. He's been playing about 15 snaps per game over the last three games.
He had three tackles and a sack against Philadelphia and one tackle last week against the Jets.
"I'm just coming along trying to get better each week on defense and special teams," Sidbury said. "I'm just coming out and doing what they are asking me to do. Playing my role."
He's expected to get some extensive action in the final two games, with the Falcons eliminated from playoff contention.
"Hopefully I can get more snaps, but it starts in practice," Sidbury said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do."
Sidbury has been active for all 16 games and had been a contributor on specials teams.
"It's definitely been a big learning experience for me," Sibury said. "I'm just trying to improve my game, just every aspect of it. I've done some good things and there are some things I need to work on. That's part of it. I just have to continue to work and get better."
Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton is coaching Sidbury up pretty aggressively. That's usually a good sign for a young player in that the coaching staff thinks he has potential.
"He's always telling me that the little things, you have to get those things down," Sidbury said. "He said you will make a lot of plays if you just master the little things."
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