One of the classic mistakes that even long-time fans during preseason is expecting to see a version of the regular season gameplan. Because that never happens, particularly with these Falcons, it's easy to come away from preseason games feeling as though the team looks lousy and lazy.
I'm here to tell you to set those expectations to bed. Until the last preseason game, you won't see anything resembling a cogent plan on either side of the ball. I think we all understand that the primary reason for that is not overplaying your hand before the games that count even start, and rolling players out there to just sort of play without the byzantine rules of Mike Nolan's defense in effect gives you a good sense of their pure athletic ability.
Yet there's still a lot of anxiety around this super vanilla play, so I'm going to do my best to tell you what you should expect from the Ravens game, so as to minimize your gameday angst.
- The starters to do a competent-to-excellent job against the Ravens, creating excitement;
- Things to immediately go downhill as the Falcons trot out backups with no real coherent plan for using them. One or two guys will shine, a few more will do well and the Ravens will score a couple of times on very broken plays;
- Things continue their downward slide as the Falcons get into their third-and-fourth stringers, with one or two players rising above the rest and a general sort of malaise settling over all;
- The Falcons will lose the game, I will chide everyone about caring too much about preseason and many will proceed to start worrying about the season.
This will be less pronounced than it was against the Bengals, because the Falcons have another week of work in and should be slightly less rusty, but the Ravens have soundly defeated the Falcons in the preseason twice in the last two years, so you shouldn't expect anything pretty.
Now that I've written this, the Falcons will probably win 38-0, impress the hell out of everyone and force me to caution you not to put too much stock into the victory, but at least that's a little more pleasant. The important thing to remember is the "plan" you see enacted on the field against the Bengals and Ravens will have no resemblance to the actual gameplanning that starts in September. You'll need to remember that when some scrub UDFA runs in a 50 yard touchdown.
Your expectations for Thursday night's game?