The team that we prefer not to name, comes into Atlanta this weekend to take on the Falcons. The Falcons have dealt with a plethora of setbacks over the last two weeks. They continue to look as strong as ever, even after losing key contributors on both sides of the ball. This series continues as we take a look at what to watch for in tomorrow’s pivotal matchup.
Atlanta’s offense looked fantastic last weekend, especially in the red zone capping off four trips with four touchdowns. The team finally looked like they were back in full swing and ready to take on anybody. Let’s not forget how talented that the Carolina Panthers are on defense, and the Falcons moved the ball well.
This doesn’t happen without the key players at the skill positions stepping up. I’m not talking about Julio Jones either, I’m talking about Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley and even Austin Hooper. These are all guys that needed to have better performances in order to give the offense a chance.
With Devonta Freeman out, Coleman proved that he can carry the load. It wasn’t much of a question prior to last Sunday, but he silenced any doubters that may have remained. This weekend Coleman faces a set of run stuffing linebackers that can cause some problems. Manti Te’o isn’t anybody worth writing home about, but he’s good enough to prevent a big run from breaking off. Coleman’s added skill set of being a pass catcher puts those linebackers in a liable situation.
The Falcons have enough offensive talent to overwhelm the talent of the Saints secondary. The key will be how the game is called and where players are utilized. Jones has acquainted himself well with second-year player Marshon Lattimore, averaging just over 20 yards per reception. This could be another game where we see big numbers from number 11.
Battle in the Trenches
Just automatically assume that this will be a hot topic each week. The Falcons had a liability here at the beginning of the year, and it’s even worse now. Now, to be fair, the Falcons offensive line was awarded Offensive Line of the Week. I was even quoted earlier this season saying the Falcons have very talented depth up front. Fortunately, I’m not as concerned about the offensive line as I am with what the Falcons have on defense. Takk McKinley and Derrick Shelby have been sidelined this week with groin injuries, adding to the woes.
Outside of McKinley, the pass rush has been nonexistent. Nickel corner Brian Poole is currently tied with McKinley through two weeks with two sacks. This is an area of concern for me as we may be seeing a lot of Brooks Reed and newly acquired Steven Means. Not taking anything away from either of them but it’s far from what you want when facing Drew Brees.
Stopping Alvin Kamara
This goes beyond Alvin Kamara, but it is where it needs to begin. The Falcons need to prioritize containing Kamara. He is capable of taking over a game in an instant and it’s scary knowing the defense is depleted. Without Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, this could be a huge test for players like Foye Oluokun, Duke Riley, and Damotae Kaze. All three of these players are filling in for their injured counterparts and have the challenge of containing a high powered offense.
If Kamara does take over the game, this leaves the door wide open for Michael Thomas. Let’s not forget about the tough challenge the Falcons defensive backs have with him. Thomas set the NFL record with 28 catches in the first two weeks of the season. This is exactly why it’s so important to contain the running back in order to have a chance Sunday.
Fortunately for the Falcons, they have their own version of Kamara on offense. The one player on the offense that I believe gives defenses the hardest time. Not only can he run the ball extremely efficiently, but he also looks like a wide receiver when he lines up wide. This guy has the capabilities to ruin a team’s game plan by himself. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will absolutely seize this opportunity with Devonta Freeman sidelined.