Without this man, the dynamic of the game changes. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
We're returning to the old on paper standby, because it's rarely more apropos than it is for this game.
Poll a group of Falcons fans and most will tell you the Falcons should win this game. On paper, this is like a fire-breathing dragon made of steel going against a fuzzy bunny. The Colts are a horribly inept offensive team without Peyton Manning, relying on a combination of a rarely effective passing game and an average ground game to do their damage. Heck, even Colts fans are wildly pessimistic about this one.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Falcons and Colts are going to skip playing this game. The Colts still have a vaguely opportunistic defense and are playing desperate football right now. I'm sure they'd like Andrew Luck, but it would be foolish to assume they're going to tank the season for him. This is a proud team with a proud history, one hoping to have Peyton Manning return before the end of the season. If Indianapolis loses, it won't be because they didn't try.
So 'ware the desperate team. They have a nasty habit of surprising you, even if it doesn't seem possible.
After the jump, I have one big question, two smaller ones and a prediction for the game.
The Big Question
Can the Falcons establish their offense against the Colts?
It shouldn't be an overly difficult proposition, given that the Colts have a shaky defense. They're near the bottom of the league in scoring and yardage for both rushing and passing, and the Saints showed that an electric offense can eviscerate them.
The Falcons have gotten Michael Turner going in recent weeks, but the passing game has been little more than vaguely competent. This would be an excellent game to rev that up with Roddy White healthy and Julio Jones back, and given the fact that the Colts will be passing like crazy themselves, it wouldn't hurt to put some points on the board.
This is the team's best chance to cut back on Turner's workload for the week, against a relatively inferior opponent. I hope they take it.
The Smaller Questions
Question 1: Can the Falcons protect Matt Ryan all game long?
It's not as if the Colts have a very strong pass rush, but the Falcons will be without Sam Baker. I fully expect a snarky comment or two about Baker being awful, but the fact is that Will Svitek is not an upgrade does not fill me with confidence.
This is an offensive line that has taken strides forward over the last few weeks, and this is not the most intimidating opposition they've faced. But with the starting left tackle gone, this is a shot for Svitek to prove himself and for the line to continue to get better.
Question 2: Will Curtis Painter sling like crazy? We asked this the other day, but it's worth asking again.
After all, the Colts have nothing to lose. They pass a lot because it's their best chance to pick up a lot of yardage and make something happen, and if they're effective even a handful of times, it's going to be enough to give the Falcons fits. They need to get after him and shut down Pierre Garcon to put the brakes on, which they're capable of but not entirely assured of doing.
The Falcons will struggle at times but ultimately walk away with it. 31-17. Yeah, I know. I made that sound worse than I think it will be.