Three Keys: Brohm set to lead 'O'

Hold on, folks. It's not time to shift into free-agency mode quite yet. The Bills still have two games to go. This Sunday, they will look to pull the upset in Atlanta. To win the Bills must go deep, pressure Matt Ryan and somehow find motivation. Analysis and a prediction inside...

Is it January yet?

Unfortunately, no. The Bills have two games left, two games until everything changes. Or so you'd think. This is a franchise stuck in an airport line, slowly shuffling its feet between those never-ending ropes. Waiting and waiting and waiting for direction. Yet still, the Bills lack a refurbished front office.

The entire organization is in limbo, unsure what Ralph Wilson is thinking. So while we all wait for Buffalo's owner to flinch, let's play some football.

Neither Buffalo or Atlanta will be in the playoffs. Still, a few subplots could make this one interesting. The Bills (probably) will get a glimpse at a young arm. And the Falcons are gunning for their first-ever back-to-back winning seasons.

If you plan on rooting for the Bills, draft pick be damned, here's the recipe to success.

1. Brohm's Away!

Yes, really. Brian Brohm must throw deep. Doesn't seem logical, right? Encourage a quarterback to throw deep routes in his first NFL game ever? Might as well force a 16-year old to drive in New York City rush-hour traffic. But to win, that's precisely what the Bills should do. Go yard. Mix in a well-timed, deep passing game with a pounding rushing attack.

Atlanta's pass defense is awful. Warm eggnog, awful. More particularly, it is susceptible to the big play. No team has allowed more plays of 20 yards or more than the Falcons — 54. Ouch. If he starts, Brohm cannot be a Tin Min out there. He must shed any layer of anxiety fast and push the envelope. Passing windows will be open. This isn't Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets. More like Buh, Buh, Bennie and the Jets.

Atlanta's pass defense is the third-worst in the NFL. Brohm wouldn't be the first C-rate quarterback to do so. Josh Freeman (250 yards, two touchdowns), Jay Cutler (300 yards, two touchdowns) and Jake Delhomme (308 yards, touchdown) all enjoyed temporary success against Atlanta's undersized defense.

Maybe Alex Van Pelt is still struggling to separate the play-by-play booth from the play-calling booth but Sunday's gameplan should be no secret. Condense the playbook. Rely on Fred Jackson. And exploit the subsequent one-on-one coverage deep with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Or in other words, what Buffalo should have been doing all season.

After foster-care treatment in Green Bay, Brohm realizes these opportunities are rare.

"It will be a big game for me and a great opportunity," Brohm said. "You never know how many opportunities you're going to get. You have to be ready to take advantage of them."

For Buffalo to win, he must.

2. Get after Matt Ryan

….while Aaron Schobel is still in a Bills uniform. Right when you think things can't get worse, Buffalo's best defensive lineman hints that he'll retire. Hopefully Aaron Maybin is all ears.

The pass rush has improved this season, upping its sack total from 24 to 28 with two games to go. Not bad. Against a hobbled Matt Ryan (turf toe), the Bills must bring the heat. Ryan was limited in practice Friday but is expected to play.

After missing two games, he rekindled his rookie magic last week in the Meadowlands by splitting the seam for a game-winning touchdown to Tony Gonzalez on fourth down late.

Granted. Atlanta will run all over Buffalo. That's been the drill all season. The Bills' bruised and battered front seven has stopped no one. Sunday is merely the latest tribulation. Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jamal Anderson, Eric Metcalf, "Iron Head" Heyward. It won't matter who Atlanta's primary back is.

To counter this inevitability, the Bills must continue to be opportunistic in the secondary. With Jairus Byrd on injured reserve, George Wilson and Donte Whitner become the go-to playmakers. Drayton Florence is questionable at cornerback, which could vault Ellis Lankster or Cary Harris into action. Get heat on a banged-up Ryan and hope to get turnovers.

That's Buffalo's best hope on defense. Paging Maybin...

3. Find Motivation

The writing has been on the wall for a while. Way back in mid-November, after getting crushed by Tennessee, an angry Schobel questioned the direction of the team. Lighting a team-wide fire now seems nearly impossible. This season has been marred by injuries and fourth-quarter collapses. Bitter, two-plays-away collapses. Somehow, the Bills must play with an edge in Atlanta and not treat this game like a nine-loss hangover.

The Falcons, although out of the playoff hunt, will be gunning for a winning record. They're a franchise on a rise.

Buffalo? Not so much. Nobody is quite sure which direction Wilson is going to steer this team. It's Perry Fewell's job to keep the team focused — even though his fate is probably sealed.

Not an easy task.

Prediction: Falcons 24, Bills 20. Brian Brohm does better than expected, but Bills' run ‘D' is gashed again for another grimacing loss.

thdunne@gmail.com

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