Sadly, the Atlanta Falcons have fallen to 1-4 this season. An extremely dismal record with the odds now stacked against them to make the playoffs. This defense is big issue and needs to show huge improvements to make a run towards the playoffs. A step in getting there is dominating the division. The Falcons stand at 1-1 in division, but winning that out could help greatly. This week Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay in what is seeming to be an early must-win scenario. The keys to defensive success this week follow.
Get Off The Field
This is a crucial. Third down stops have been practically impossible for Dan Quinn and his defensive unit this year. The team has given up a league worst 55% third down conversion rate. If this team still plans on making a run towards the playoffs, that conversion rate needs to be cut in half. All throughout last week, we saw Pittsburgh convert third and longs. Their complete third down conversion rate last week was 75%. That simply cannot happen if the Falcons want a shot at winning a ball game sometime soon. Tampa Bay has a 40% third down conversion rate that ranks 13th in the league. This defense will have their hands full, but need to make plays to save this season.
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Prevent The Deep Ball
Although, we should be seeing Jameis Winston on Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league in completions of 40+ yards. The Bucs love to throw the deep ball and it makes sense considering they have two legitimate deep threats in DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. We must take into account that Jameis has a cannon for an arm as well. Dirk Koetter and his quarterback duo, regardless of who is in, are going to take plenty of deep shots. Our secondary must protect this from happening. Both Trufant and Alford need to contain that speedy duo and keep them in front all day Sunday.
Win The Turnover Battle
Tampa Bay is tied for 5th in the league in most turnovers. Their quarterbacks have combined for 7 interceptions so far this season. Due to Matt Ryan’s ball security, Atlanta’s turnover plus-minus is at +2 right now. Tampa Bay is -4. If the Falcons can win the turnover battle on Sunday like they should, I would expect some good results Sunday afternoon. Tampa Bay’s run game has been pretty average this season, so they are going to throw the ball a lot. Taking advantage of the few missed throws between Winston and Fitzpatrick will be crucial to get a victory. Hopefully, Trufant can finally catch the ball with his hands this week.
If Dan Quinn has revolutionized this defense over the practice week, I expect a lot of success on Sunday. However, we cannot expect the defense to be dominant. It should be another shoot out. As long as our offense is clicking, Atlanta could end the losing streak at three and turn this season around.