It wasn’t until the final second ran off the clock that Falcons fans could breathe a sigh of relief. The Buccaneers ran a play in the final seconds that left Desean Jackson wide open with a clear path to the end zone, but thankfully the pitch wasn’t caught and rolled out of bounds. Atlanta is hopeful to get Grady Jarrett and Derrick Shelby back this week. Unfortunately, another Falcon has found his way on the IR. Devonta Freeman will require a procedure due to a groin injury, but could be back near the end of the season. The Falcons are in virtually another must win game if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Let’s take a look at what you need to know for this week’s matchup.
Matt Ryan has had a great start to the season despite his offensive line allowing the 2nd most quarterback hits in the league at 49. So far this season he is top five in passer rating, yards, touchdowns, and passes of 25+ yards. No quarterback has a higher completion percentage in the red zone since week 2. It is unfortunate the teams record is 2-4, as he would likely be in the MVP conversation. Last time Atlanta was in primetime, Week 1, Ryan had one of the worst games of his career, this Monday will be a different story.
Matt Ryan has completed 18 of 20 red zone attempts (90.0%) since Week 2, +22.5% Above Expectation according to our Completion Probability model.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 15, 2018
It isn’t a secret that the Falcons defense has been devastated by injuries this year. This will be the third week in a row the team has put the same unit out on the field. Consistency will be key as players are still fitting into their new roles. They showed glimpses of improvement this past week, but missed tackles remain an issue. I counted at least five in the first half against the Bucs. However, there have been positives, such as their defensive line. Per PFF when Takkarist McKinley, Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Jack Crawford are on the field together the defense is allowing a league best 4.0 yards per pass play. Getting Jarrett back this week will be huge for the defense.
When McKinley, Jarrett, Crawford, & Beasley are on field:
Allowing 4.0 yards per pass play (would rank 1st in NFL)
With 3 on field: 5.8 (4th)
With 2 on field: 8.6 (31st)
With 1 or none: 9.0 (32nd)
— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Falcons) October 17, 2018
Home vs Road
Being at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium compared to when they are away the Falcons have virtually been a different team. Of Ryan’s 14 touchdown passes, 13 of them have come at home. He is also averaging nearly 100 more yards passing per game in the Benz. Even though it is a small sample size, the offense averages 17 less points per game on the road. Ryan is being sacked 1.75 times per matchup at home, but 5 times per game on the road. The team needs to improve on the road if they want to have a shot at the playoffs. The bye week is coming at a perfect time. After the Giants game the Falcons players can get some much needed rest and will hopefully come out healthy and swinging. However a concerning fact is that the majority of the remaining games after the bye are on the road.
The offense is averaging 86 yards per game rushing, which is 29th in the league. Obviously the game script hasn’t been ideal, but Atlanta needs to get the run game going. The Giants have allowed Eli Manning to be hit 40 times, tied for 6th worst in the league. While their defense has only hit the opposing quarterback 27 times, tied for 5th worst. Atlanta has an opportunity to gain momentum with its pass rush and to allow Ryan time to carve up the Giants secondary. Ryan is 2-3 against the Giants since being drafted, but will hopefully be be 3-3 against them after this upcoming week.