G’day Falcons fans, and welcome back to the contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. I’ll analyse the best case scenario for the Falcons, with what are, in my opinion, a few keys to victory, while dunlagh will play devil’s advocate and look at how the game will turn out if we play at our true worst.
Hey guys, back for the second half of the weekly Best Case/Worst Case post. The Falcons, coming off 2 wins and the bye, look to remain at worst a half game behind the NFC South lead with a win to the currently winless Colts. One of my best mates is a Colts fan, so I’ve got to say I feel pretty confident covering them this week. Sadly, that’s as far as my confidence goes. We all know that the Falcons seem to play to the level of the opposition, and (despite the 0-8 record and the heavy beatdowns) the Painter-era Colts have had some very good showings. Against Pittsburgh, the Colts looked like a legit playoff team. They also failed to do anything against the Titans or Browns. The Falcons have been clicking the past few weeks, but similarly also made Tavaris Jackson look like a champion a few weeks ago.
Knowing that the Colts still have the same talented team on the d-line, and are still stacked at WR, and knowing how the Falcons play in ‘trap games’, I think this has the possibility to go inside 7 points. On a much more positive note, the best case scenario is a 21+ point Falcons victory, in which everything clicks. The scary thing about this weekend is that either Falcons (and Colts for that matter) team could show up. But we’re not here to talk realistic scenarios – we’re here to talk Best Case Scenarios. For me, this week the best case comes if JJ returns smoothly, we generate pressure and make good half time adjustments.
JJ returns smoothly: I’m sure we’re all very, very glad Julio Jones is back this week. It’s never good seeing anyone in the organisation go down hurt, but when it’s your first round pick for the next two years, it’s hard not to be extremely worried. However, as much as we all love JJ, I think it’s safe to say that our best and most consistent football has come in his absence. Atlanta have gotten back to the more familiar ‘Turner up the middle’ approach, rather than having Matt Ryan throw 40+ a game, and it’s quite clear that it has paid dividends. Turner has looked like the Michael Turner of old, burning off big runs more consistently and making linebackers fly off him with ease. The danger is, once JJ returns, Ryan/Mularkey might get a little Jones happy. We saw it when Gonzalez first arrived in Atlanta and, although now Ryan and Gonz have a great rhythm established, at first it was a little tedious. Similarly, Jones has yet to find his role in the passing game. He was putting up great numbers, yes, but I feel like the offense was very JJ focused and not very balanced. I don’t have target numbers to back this up, but it felt like HD and Gonzalez were getting overlooked in the passing game as Ryan looked for his new toy, and Turner’s run game was an afterthought.
With the loss of Ovie Mughelli I think it’s natural for the Falcons to shy away from the run slightly. However, the Colts rank 31st in run defence and allow an average of 144 yards to opposing backs. If we see the offense shift back into becoming the Ryan to Jones show, it might be dangerous. On the other hand, If JJ integrates back into the offense well, offering himself when needed and not altering the gameplan too much, then it will allow us to soften the Colts with the run and then gash them for big gains later on. This is the game to see him haul in his first points I think, but I think we can agree that the best case is exploit the run then burn the Colts once they’re softened. A smooth return, not a big return, is all we need from JJ this week.
Generate pressure: In the past few weeks we’ve seen the emergence of the pass rush. Cam Newton looked all at sea against the Falcons a few weeks back, and the Lions had no answer for Ray Edwards, Corey Peters and even Sean Weatherspoon. It may of just been me, but it seemed like we through in a few more safety and linebacker blitzes throughout those games, rather than the usual rush 4 (or the rush 3, drop Abraham into coverage technique which works so well). The Colts have only allowed 14 sacks all year (9 on Painter) and 41 QB hits, both of which rank 8th best in the league. The Jeff Saturday led o-line has been fairly good this year, aided by the fact that Curtis Painter is a little more mobile than people give him credit for. However, of the 9 sacks Painter has been hit with, 3 have resulted in lost fumbles. With Lofton having yet another fantastic season, both Nicholas and Weatherspoon are free to come on a few blitzes. Despite his 28th ranked numbers, Curtis Painter has made some really nice plays this year. He and Reggie Wayne are yet to really click together, but Pierre Garcon is definitely firmly on his radar on any passing play. If the Falcons can disrupt his confidence in the pocket, as we saw against Matt Stafford, there might be a few open receivers missed and a couple of throws forced. The Colts are trying to become a little more two dimensional, with more of a focus on Delone Carter and Donald Brown than Joseph Addai has received in previous years, but if we can make Painter feel the heat early then there is no way the Colts offense will be able to deal with Brent Grimes, John Abraham, Curtis Lofton and the rest of the defensive crew.
Make Half Time Adjustments: The Falcons don’t do 3rd quarters. Over the past 7 games, Atlanta has been outscored 78 to 16 in third quarters, a stat which I find just amazing for all the wrong reasons. We’ve heard of oppositions “making the right adjustments” at half time, or the Falcons “failing to adjust” after the break, but for whatever reason second halves just aren’t our time. There is zero reason that can’t change this week. With an extra week’s worth of film and prep for the game, coming up against a winless side, there is no reason the Falcons shouldn’t have an established game plan to get us in the lead. There is also no reason that the coaching staff haven’t seen what the Colts do when faced with distance x, formation y or situation z. We’ve had an extra week to prepare ourselves, and an extra week to scout.I understand that the changes made after half time are usually reactive, rather than proactive, and can therefore be hard to plan for, but there is no reason the Falcons coaching and palying staff shouldn’t have a plan for each situation. From there, it’s a matter of execution which, again, should be at 100% following the bye week.
A win this week puts us 5-3, and depending on what happens in the Saints/Bucs game, could either catapult us to the lead of the division or a half game off pace. I’m definitely not taking the Colts lightly, but I feel this is one game where we could go out and put 40+ points on a team. If we play to our strengths, and execute throughout the game, I feel there is a very real chance of a multiple TD win for us. However, the Falcons have a history of playing at the level of their opposition, so let’s just wait to see what happens before we tick any W columns. As always, be sure to check out the Worst Case Scenario here, and thanks for reading. Go Falcons!