G’day Falcons fans, and welcome back to the weekly contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. Each week I’ll outline what would constitute the best case for the Falcons this week, while dunlagh will handle doomsayer duty. Enjoy.
Hey there .500, how’s it going? A win was nice, but I think we can all agree we played some pretty poor football at a stage. It’s probably never a good time to meet an angry divisional rival, and the Bucs are probably feeling plenty pumped after a come from behind win against the Vikes. Josh Freeman is fast becoming Iceman jr, with a fair few 4th quarter wins in his short career. In positive news, the Falcons should be buoyed with the return of Todd McClure, a healthy Corey Peters and the lessons learned from a tough slog against Philly. This week, my best case scenario comes if Roddy White hits his peak, Todd McClure anchors the line and our DBs lock down.
Roddy White hits his peak: Dave has already touched on this in regards to what White can do for Julio Jones’ game, but I’d like to look at it the other way. Roddy White is one of the most explosive WRs in the league. However, through two games, White has only 11 catches on 17 targets, for 84 yards and a season long of 17 yards. Tampa Bay aren’t up to the quality of the Eagles corners, but they’ve definitely got talent outside with Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber. They’ve only combined for 1 pick so far, but these guys are definitely ball hawks. We know what White’s capable of, and after Tony Gonzalez’s huge game on the weekend, along with JJ’s strong showing and the emergence of Turner catching passes out of the backfield, we might see a little less attention payed to White. Tampa are a little susceptible to the pass, giving up 29 of their 50 total first downs through the air. We also all know what Roddy does on third down. They’ve also given up 30.7% of their passing yards to the opposition’s #1 receiver, and 30.95% of catches allowed have gone to opposition’s #1. Roddy’s been fairly quiet recently against the Bucs, so could this be the week he snaps a few trends and shows us why he was the most targeted receiver of 2010?
Todd McClure anchors the line: After only allowing 23 sacks all season last year, second fewest in the league, Matt Ryan has already met the turf 9 times this season (third most). That could all change this week. Todd McClure is an absolute champion of a Centre, and has practiced all week (albeit in a limited capacity). He’ll probably be marked as a ‘Q’ on the final injury report, but I’m pretty confident that he’ll be able to get up for this one. Nothing against Joe Hawley, as I think he’s performed pretty well considering his lack of game time and quality of our opposition, but he has let in a bit too much pressure for my liking, and Ryan has had very little time to scan the field as a result. The Bucs have only had 2 sacks this year, both against the Vikings last week, and they might be a little worse in the pass rush than Peppers, Cole, Jenkins, Babin or Urlacher. That’s not to say that there isn’t talent on their D-Line, but last season the Bucs recorded 0 sacks against the Falcons in their two meetings. It’ll be nice to have McClure back to give some stability to our line which has been very shaky in pass protection, but he also adds another element in the run game.
The Bucs ranked 31st in rush yards allowed this year, with opposition RBs combining for an average of 156 yards per game. Add in the fact that Michael Turner is 15 yards behind leading the league in rush yards, and that he’s busted out the longest rush of the season to date, and he could be in for a big one. McClure can only boost our side, keeping Ryan off of the Raymond James deck, giving him time to pick apart the defence and boosting Turner for his 3rd consecutive 100+ yard game.
Our DBs lock down: I’ll put my hand up here – I love Dunta Robinson. I think for the few big plays he gives up, he more than repays the debt by consistently shutting an entire half of the field.Or at least, that’s what I thought. It might be too early after only two games, to call it, but Dunta’s play has been absolutely horrendous this year. He’s been burned a few times, given up some dumb penalties and looked generally out of sorts. Last week in the last quarter, D-Rob thought he had safety help over the top and allowed himself to drift inside Maclin, but we ended up being burned for 43 yards. Dunta was pretty upset after the play, and looked to blame the safeties. This one play mightn’t have been his fault, but it just highlights that Dunta’s side of the field hasn’t been as flawless as it was last year. This is balanced by Brent Grimes getting fewer targets this year, but the poor play of our most expensive corner isn’t helping anyone. James Sanders and Kelvin Hayden looked quite solid last week and, despite the likelihood of Hayden missing this week, the extra depth definitely helped us against the weapons of Philly. Chris Owens made a great play last week on the last Eagles 3rd down, sniffing out a screen and dropping it for a loss. I’ve still got my doubts about him, but his nickel play looked ok on limited snaps, so hopefully he can step up again this week. Josh Freeman has completed 68% of his passes this year, for 2 TDs and 2 INTs, so this week will be a good measure of whether the DBs can shut down some quality accurate quarterback play.
That’s it for another week. After sneaking away with a win last week, I’d love nothing more than to put the Buccaneers away early. Freeman’s 4th quarter heroics have been highlighted, so putting this one out of reach early through a strong offensive showing would be great. This could be the week that all our weapons come out to play. Be sure to check out dunlagh’s Worst Case article here, and discuss below. Go Falcons!