Well, I am sure you all have heard the news. The spark plugs of this defense have been stripped away from Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons after a physical battle in Philadelphia. Keanu Neal who tore his ACL on Thursday is out for the season. Deion Jones was placed on the injured reserve list with soreness in his left foot. This youthful defense looked extremely stout against Philadelphia, however with injuries to these two look for their ability to stop the opposing offense to decrease significantly. Especially with talented Quarterback Cam Newton on the other side. Here are a few keys to look for on Sunday.
This one is obvious. Cam Newton is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in this league with his ability to become both a passer and runner. Keeping Newton in the pocket is important for Success coming into this week. Weighing in at 245 pounds and 6’5, Dan Quinn does not want to see him running downhill. We have seen it before, and his ability to run can take over a game. Keep him in the pocket and force him to throw to his already weak receiving core, will help shut this offense down. Greg Olsen is resting a broken foot, so there is no big play guy to worry about.
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Depth Needs To Show Up
In my recent article on why Atlanta could reach the Super Bowl, I boasted about the depth all around this defense. Now with Deion Jones and Keanu Neal out, look for some backups to pick up more snaps. Dan Quinn decided to stay in house at the safety position. It looks like Damontae Kazee should be getting the start and Jordan Richards, whom they traded for recently from the Patriots will rotate in if needed. Foye Oloukon and Duke Riley will be heavily depended on to sure up the middle. I must also note that Atlanta signed DE Steven Means and LB Corey Nelson to the team to add more depth. Look for Steven Means to make an impact on the pass rush if he gets mixed in the rotation. There is big shoes to fill with key guys missing. This defense is still solid without those two. But if the depth doesn’t show up, this once top tier defense could fall off.
Through my eyes, our secondary will handle the passing game of Carolina. Our corners have great ball skills and will be able to control these receivers in space. Carolina was only able to put up sixteen points last week against a mediocre Dallas Defense. I expect Atlanta to still hold them under twenty points, as long as Atlanta’s offense can stay on the field. In a game like this that could be dominated by the defenses, time of possession will be key. Matt Ryan should get back on his feet after a miserable showcase on Thursday and provide better play. If he can at least control the football and take time off the clock, that will allow this defense to play every possession with energy and get Newton off the field quick. Expect another defensive slug fest this weekend. My prediction: Atlanta wins at home 20-17.