TORONTO — When the 2013 schedule came out, it seemed like a late-season meeting with the Atlanta Falcons would be one of the Buffalo Bills' toughest games of the year. The Falcons were coming off three straight trips to the playoffs and appeared to be one of the NFC's best teams.
Atlanta has failed to live up to expectations. At 2-9, the Falcons are tied for the worst record in the league.
On the other hand, Buffalo is still in the hunt for the playoffs with a 4-7 record.
The Daily Messenger asked D. Orlando Ledbetter, the Falcons beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, some questions about this year's Atlanta team. He has covered the team since 2005 and is president of the Pro Football Writers of America organization.
Q: Matt Ryan is on pace to set a career-high for interceptions. Is he playing that poorly, or is he just struggling without Julio Jones?
A: He has had to operate behind an inexperienced and shaky offensive line. The Falcons tried to replace three starters along the line and the transition has not been smooth. Ryan has been sacked 24 times, hit 69 times and hurried on more than 100 other pass attempts. I think his leaky pass protection has led to his problems.
Q: The Atlanta defense seemed to be solid last year. What's changed in 2013?
A: They didn't re-sign John Abraham, and Osi Umenyiora has not been a comparable replacement. Also, they've changed out three of their top five defensive backs and the linebacker corps has been beset with injuries.
Q: Steven Jackson doesn't seem to be doing much better than Michael Turner. Why are running backs struggling in Atlanta?
A: The revamped offensive line has also struggled run blocking. Jackson also missed four games with a hamstring injury.
Q: Do you think anyone in Atlanta could be in danger of losing their jobs with the season not going well?
A: Arthur Blank, the team's owner, gave head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff a vote of confidence after the loss to Tampa Bay. But, changes are certainly on the way. They will likely occur on the coaching staff and in the scouting department.
Q: Who is a player on the Falcons that Bills fans may not have heard of, but will have a big impact on Sunday's game?
A: Wide receiver Harry Douglas has had three 100-yard receiving games this season and has developed into Matt Ryan's top target with Roddy White slowed by injury and Julio Jones out for the season.
Q: The Falcons come away with a win on Sunday if …