ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Will he? Won’t he? Can he?

Maybe.

Michael Vick’s hamstring injury has left many hamstrung, wondering whether the NFL’s most dynamic quarterback will play when the Atlanta Falcons face the Buffalo Bills today.

“I knew that might be the first question,” Falcons coach Jim Mora said, chuckling during a conference call this week.

Mora said his gut feeling is Vick will start, and that’s important for the Falcons, who are an entirely different team with their multidimensional threat in the lineup. Including playoffs, Atlanta is 26-15-1 in games Vick starts and 9-19 when he doesn’t.

Consider last weekend’s 21-18 loss at Seattle, the game in which Vick came up limping. With Vick, the Falcons rallied from a 21-0 deficit. Without him, their last-gasp bid to produce a final scoring drive ended when backup Matt Schaub threw an incompletion.

The Bills aren’t taking any chances, preparing as if Vick will be 100 percent.

The game at Orchard Park is an early-season test for two non-conference teams with playoff-contending hopes, both attempting to rebound from discouraging road losses.

The Bills (1-1) were dreadful as a whole at Tampa Bay, looking nothing like the team that romped over Houston to open the season.

Buffalo’s J.P. Losman-led offense is still in its infancy, managing a mere four first downs when the game was on the line against Tampa Bay. Overall, the Bills have produced six field goals and one touchdown, and have been ineffective when running back Willis McGahee can’t find holes.

Coach Mike Mularkey called out McGahee this week, urging him to be more decisive.

Just as disturbing was Buffalo’s defensive performance last weekend, the stingy unit uncharacteristically allowing the Buccaneers to control the ball for nearly 39 minutes.

“You don’t like losing. It’s a bad taste in your mouth,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “You let a loss linger too long and it starts compounding on you. We’ll be prepared to play on Sunday.”

The Bills have injury problems of their own. Fletcher (hamstring) and safety Lawyer Milloy (broken right thumb) – both of whom play integral roles in defending the run – are banged up and questionable to play Sunday.

That’s not good for a defense preparing for one of the league’s top running teams which, besides Vick, features a strong 1-2 punch in running backs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.

Whether Vick plays or not, count on the Falcons to continue playing to their strengths.

“Our bread and butter is running the football,” Mora said, adding he has full confidence in Schaub, who had one start in six appearances as a rookie last year. “If Michael doesn’t play, we aren’t going to change our mind-set as a football team.”

Vick said he’ll only play if he feels he can be effective.

“I don’t know if anybody can be effective on one leg,” Vick said. “If I get out there and play, then I know for myself that I’m 100 percent and able to do the things that I can.”

The Falcons’ defensive strength is the front four, led by end Patrick Kerney and tackle Rod Coleman, who will be expected to pressure Losman.

Atlanta’s only deficiency is its defensive backfield, which is banged up after cornerback Kevin Mathis went on injured reserve, and backup cornerback Allen Rossum (hamstring) is questionable.

“We’ll rope a dope,” Mora said. “But I’m sure teams will take shots on us. I know I would.”

Losman considers this an opportunity to rebound after last week’s struggles – a game in which the inexperienced quarterback was forced out of the end zone for a safety.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for me,” Losman said. “You say you’re frustrated, say you’re not going to make the same mistake twice. This is my opportunity to actually show it.”

AP-ES-09-22-05 2020EDT


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