Theoretically, this week should result in a relatively easy win for the Falcons. On power rankings lists everywhere, the Falcons are currently nesting somewhere near the top, and the Raiders are lingering somewhere around the bottom. The Falcons are 5-0 (it just feels good to say that, you know?) and the Raiders are...not.
That being said, the Raiders are coming off of their bye week, with healthy wide receivers. Darren McFadden has been fairly quiet this season, but he’s a solid player facing an Atlanta defense that is prone to giving up a lot of rushing yards. Anything can happen.
Falcons Offense vs. Raiders Defense
The Raiders secondary has been ravaged by injuries, and their current starting cornerbacks, Michael Huff and Pat Lee, have struggled this season--both have been forced into starting CB roles due to injuries. The Falcons receiving corps present a challenge for top-flight secondaries, and Matt Ryan should, and likely will, try to take advantage of the Raiders injury-depleted secondary as they try to keep up with Roddy White and Julio Jones.
To make matters slightly less optimistic for the Raiders, their pass rush has been anemic to date. They are tied with the Jaguars at 31st in the league with three total sacks on the season. However, the Raiders did sign veteran DE Andre Carter--an absolute beast for New England last year until a quadriceps injury ended his season--to bolster their pass rush, and it looks as if he will be active for the first time this season on Sunday. The Falcons offensive line will need to keep him at bay.
Michael Turner has the potential to have a big day against the Raiders. The Raiders have allowed an average of 128.4 rushing yards per game, slightly more than the Carolina Panthers, and we all remember how Turner fared against Carolina.
The Raiders are one of only two teams in the league without an interception so far this season, and they would desperately like to change that. The Falcons offense needs to limit mistakes on Sunday.
Falcons Defense vs. Raiders Offense
Statistically speaking, the Falcons run defense is actually slightly worse than the Raiders, and Darren McFadden has the potential to exploit that weakness. It has not mattered the grand scheme, because the Falcons are winning, but the run defense leaves a lot to be desired. McFadden has had a quiet season so far, but hopefully his breakout game will not come against the Falcons.
Carson Palmer has thrown only two interceptions this season, but has also thrown only five touchdowns. The Raiders also struggle on third downs, with around a 27% conversion rate. Palmer has been sacked seven times. Mike Nolan’s aggressive defense should be able to disrupt Oakland’s offense, especially if the Falcons can find some balance in stopping the run.
In other news...
The Falcons are definitely on a roll, and should be able to come away with a win, barring anything crazy. With a 5-0 record, though, every team will be gunning for them. The Falcons need to play smart football for 60 minutes, minimize mistakes, and take advantage of Oakland’s weaknesses.
What are you looking for from the Falcons on Sunday?