I recently became the head writer for the Falcons on news.profootballspot.com. I'm going to start posting my work here, since it'll be related to all Falcons. This is my mini preview for tonight.
http://news.profootballspot.com/_/nfl/n ... -jets-r755
When the schedule came out for the Falcons, many people believed that they would be either 3-1 or 4-0 at this point. The schedule was pretty favorable except for the away game against New Orleans to start off the season. They were getting New England at a time where they weren’t going to have Rob Gronkowski available. Miami and St. Louis were considered solid teams, but there offenses weren’t good enough to hang with Atlanta. After all of those predictions in August, the Falcons are 1-3 and have been battered by injuries.
Despite the absurd amount of injuries, there is still little room for excuses. They have lost by a combined 16 points in three losses, which proves that all three losses could have been victories. We can dissect the “what ifs” through each three games, but I’m sure I’ll get into that later on in the article. I’m still optimistic about the Falcons’ playoff chances, especially with four games coming up that they should be favored in.
The first of those games will be on primetime against the New York Jets. I’m still not sure why this game was put on Monday night, but I’m always excited for any primetime game that features the Falcons. Even though the Jets have proven to be better than expected, this should be a relatively easy game even for an injury-riddled Falcons team.
Atlanta will be without Steven Jackson, Sam Baker, and Akeem Dent. It’s safe to say that Baker won’t be much of a loss, considering how poorly he has played this year due to his lingering knee issues. Dent was the last starting linebacker healthy, so now the Falcons will likely be starting two undrafted free agents and a linebacker they picked up from the street three weeks ago in Omar Gathier on Monday night. Everyone knew Jackson was going to be out, until week seven. Asante Samuel should be back this week, after missing last week’s game against New England due to a thigh issue.
New York will be without Santonio Holmes and Dee Milner, which isn’t a surprise to anyone. A mild surprise is that Stephen Hill will likely be active, after reports were saying he would be out due to a concussion. Hill has had issues with drops in his career, but has shown glimpses of being a deep threat. Holmes is a big loss, considering he’s the most reliable receiver that the Jets have on their roster. Milner had already been benched from his performance in week two against New England, so the Jets aren’t exactly going to miss him.
Now that the enormous injury report is out of the way, I can finally break down what Atlanta will be dealing with against the Jets. While this game may look like a complete mismatch, the Jets have proven to be scrappy so far in 2013 and won’t go away easy like they did in 2012.
Whether it’s in the red zone or not, the Falcons need balance.
While Steven Jackson is one of the most versatile backs in the league, he isn’t the only running back on the roster that can be considered versatile. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have shown how versatile they can be out of the backfield. It baffles me how Dirk Koetter abandoned the run in the red zone against the Patriots. They were having success on running draw players, whether it was with Rodgers or Snelling. With Vince Wilfork being injured, they should have run the ball on first or second down to throw off the Patriots during the two-minute drill. You could also say the same for the first drive in the game, where they attempted three passes near the goal line.
The Jets are fourth against the run by shutting down the likes of Doug Martin, C.J Spiller, and Chris Johnson. I’m not saying that the Falcons need to run the ball 25 to 30 times in the game. What I’d like to see is more balance in the play calls, especially in the red zone. They are starting to become predictable in the red zone, where defenses are playing five defensive backs knowing that they are going to pass.
When Jason Snelling gets the ball, we’ve seen mostly positive gains come out of it. He’s constantly overlooked, but you can make an argument that he could be more effective than Rodgers. That’s not a shot at Rodgers, because we’ve seen how valuable he is in the passing game for Matt Ryan on check downs. It’s more of a testament to how good Snelling is. If Atlanta runs it more in the red zone, I’m sure it will make them more efficient in the red zone.
The pass rush needs to break out.
I’m always realistic when looking at matchups. When the Patriots played the Falcons, I wasn’t exactly thinking that the defensive line would harass Tom Brady all night. Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, and Sebastian Vollmer are solid to premier players at their position. Still it was extremely frustrating to see Osi Umenyiora be a complete non-factor throughout the entire game, while Brady had all night to throw.
Nobody should be surprised by the lack of pass rush from the Falcons. They’ve once again haven’t made the proper upgrades to the defensive end position. Umenyiora replacing John Abraham wasn’t an upgrade or downgrade, although if it were three years ago I’d call it a downgrade. Umenyiora has never been elite, while Abraham in his prime was an elite pass rusher. They are trying to develop mid-round draft picks into starters, which hasn’t necessarily worked for the past four seasons. Jonathan Massaquoi is a promising prospect, but he shouldn’t be an every down defensive end.
Despite D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold still playing at a high level, the rest of the offensive line is a mess. They already have committed nine false start penalties, while having to replace Vladimir Ducasse for Brian Winters. I’m expecting Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux to have producitve games, as they have been for the majority of 2013. It comes down to the defensive ends though, along with mixing up blitz schemes. Geno Smith has shown a tendency to hold on to the ball for too long. If Mike Nolan throws a few delayed blitzes at him, it could lead to Smith turning the ball over like he has so far in his rookie season (nine turnovers in 4 games).
Thirty points will usually mean victory.
After the bonanza of injuries that occurred from week two against St. Louis, I’ve said repeatedly on twitter that the Falcons had to score 30 points in just about every game to guarantee victory. So far they have only scored 23 points in each of the two losses. That is inexcusable for an “elite” offense to only score that much. The reason I’ve used quotation marks on elite is mainly because it’s hard to be elite when the offensive line allows pressure on almost half of Matt Ryan’s drop backs.
That being said, the Falcons had many opportunities to score 30 points against the Patriots. If Ryan doesn’t overthrow Roddy White on fourth and two, they most likely score a touchdown on that drive. If Levine Toilolo doesn’t drop a perfectly thrown ball in the end zone, that would be another touchdown. Those are two game-changing plays without even mentioning the last drive. It’s those reasons that I’m not in complete panic mode when it comes to the Falcons.
The offensive line had its best performance last week and it should continue to improve against an average Jets pass rush. They may have 14 sacks on the season, but eight of those came against Buffalo’s abysmal offensive line. Ryan should have another productive game with Tony Gonzalez likely being his main target once again. He should have a field day against the Jets, who have no linebackers or safeties that can stop him. This should be the last week that Roddy White isn’t at 100 percent. Despite only having three catches last week, he looked much better than he had been in the first three weeks of the season. Once he’s healthy, Atlanta’s offense should go back to firing on all cylinders.
This is the first of a four game stretch that Atlanta needs to win. They will benefit from a much-needed bye, before playing Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Carolina. Other than Carolina, no other team really poses much of a threat on beating Atlanta. If they can win those four games, they’ll be 5-3 headed into a week ten showdown against Seattle. Let’s take a moment and thank the NFL for making that game inside the Georgia Dome.
I’ll have a review ready for tomorrow afternoon. Atlanta should come away with a victory and hopefully some of the young defenders step up. This is a game, where they should force multiple turnovers since Geno Smith holds on to the ball too long and forces the ball into coverage far too often.
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