We have officially made it to the half way mark of the regular season. The Atlanta Falcons sit at 3-4, with a 2-1 division record. This isn’t where anyone predicted Atlanta to be going into the regular season. The Falcons looked to be Super Bowl contenders, but have been devastated by injuries. Since the start of the season their starting RG, LG, RB, LB, FS, and SS have all been placed on IR. Stud DT, Grady Jarrett, also missed two games, weeks 5 & 6, as well. Through Week 9 last season Atlanta was 4-4 and eventually one play away from going back to the NFC Championship. The season is far from over if Atlanta can win on the road against Washington coming off the bye. After that they get to travel to Cleveland, then Deion Jones is eligible to return week 11, when Dallas comes to town.
Matt Ryan has put up eerily similar numbers to his 2016 MVP campaign. Ryan has been playing some phenomenal football this season. Despite the offensive line allowing the second most quarterback hits through Week 7. Game script hasn’t been helpful, but the run game has also been a mess. Atlanta is averaging 83.8 rush yards per game, which is ranked 31stin the league. The offensive line is struggling to get any push up front. Ryan has been sacked 9 more times this year through Week 7 than he had last year through that span. If the Falcons continue to struggle on the road you can stick a knife in Atlanta’s season, but if Matty Ice has a say in it Atlanta will surely be making a run come playoff time.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) October 23, 2018
The injury bug not only has stung the defense, but the offense as well. Guard Andy Levitre was placed on IR after Atlanta’s Week 2 win over the Panthers. Wes Schweitzer slid into his position after starting all 16 games for the dirty birds at right guard last season. Brandon Fusco sustained a season ending ankle injury against the Giants. After placing guard Fusco on IR, Atlanta made a corresponding move signing offensive linemen Rees Odhiambo and Austin Pasztor. When Fusco went down in the game offensive journeyman Ben Garland filled the void. Garland has been somewhat of a swiss army knife for Atlanta, sliding around the offensive line, as well as playing defensive tackle before.
Atlanta’s offense has been a tale of two teams this season. At home the offense is averaging 33.4 points per game at home, while only 17.5 on the road. Week one was kind of an outlier as execution was lacking across the board and Matt Ryan was off most of the game. Against Pittsburgh Atlanta allowed Ryan to get sacked a season high six times. With the defense still rough around the edges Atlanta needs to keep Ryan upright for them to have any success.
Atlanta’s defense… It has been a mess this year. Through the first 4 weeks of the season three of their starting defensive players were placed on IR. Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Deion Jones. Atlanta traded for Jordan Richards just before the season started. After Keanu and Deion were placed on IR, Atlanta signed S Keith Tandy, and LB Corey Nelson. Atlanta reached an injury settlement with Nelson as he got injured. After Ricardo Allen went down with a season ending achilles injury Atlanta signed LB Bruce Carter and S Sharrod Neasman. The defense has been torn apart by injury, but has slowly been pieced back together. Domantae Kazee has primarily slid into the starting FS role, while the SS role has been on a rotation between Neasman and Richards as of late.
Granted it was against the Giants, but the defense looked much improved their final game before the bye. The dirty birds became the first team to hold Saquan Barkley under 100 yards from scrimmage this season. Hopefully Atlanta can take some of that momentum into the bye and come back out with a more polished product. Deion Jones will be eligible to return week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys. On Tuesday’s press conference Quinn said that “Jones is making terrific progress.” Getting a healthy Jones back will be crucial for Atlanta with six of their final nine games being on the road. Jones is arguably top 5 at his position and is a key leader on the defense.
Through the first four weeks of the season Atlanta started off 1-3, but have thankfully started to turn things around. The Falcons could easily be 5-1, which is crazy to think about with all of the injuries the team has sustained. Both games against the Bengals and Saints were wire-to-wire, with the game being on the line on the in final possession.
The league needs to change its overtime rules. Atlanta lost in OT to the Saints Week 3, their offense never got to touch the field. An offense should be able to see the field at least once in OT, and a team shouldn’t be able to tie at the professional level. Some type of format similar to the collegiate level would be ideal. The Falcons have a tough road ahead, but if they can come out of the bye to beat Washington, then the Browns, I have no doubt in my mind with Deion back on the field they can make a deep run with Ryan leading the charge.