In this corner, the Falcons. As you'll recall, the Falcons were battered by a supposedly inferior opponent last week. The Detroit Lions used their mighty fists to pummel the crap out of the reeling Falcons, whose offense amounted to jack. Whether it was Michael Vick trying to pass, Oven Mitts and his crew trying to catch, or Dunn and Norwood trying to run, it was a pretty quiet day for the offense.
But I'm not worried about the offense in the least against a mediocre Browns defense. What I've really begun to worry about at this point is the defense, and with good reason. The run defense is still pretty good, but the pass defense is like a snuff film out there. With Jimmy Williams stepping in for the terrible Jason Webster (I'm sorry, Jason, but you really aren't playing like a good cornerback right now), there's a chance of improvement. The Browns have some weapons, however, so the Falcons defense has to clamp down right now. If the Falcons lose this, they're sitting at 5-4 in a tough division, and they have a spate of difficult opponents at the end of the season. The time is now.
The Falcons will have to prey on the biggest weakness the Browns have: a suspect offensive line and a quarterback who seems to have a fetish for getting his ass planted in the turf. Constant pressure will limit Charlie Frye's chances of hitting his receivers and limit the Browns on the ground, as well. Droughns is a solid but not elite back, and the Browns clearly aren't ready to use agile rookie Jerome Harrison yet. If Frye is given enough time to find Braylon Edwards and the dangerous Kellen Winslow, the Falcons and their limited secondary are going to face some serious problems. I still like the matchup of DeAngelo Hall on Edwards, but I don't like Crocker and Milloy on Winslow nearly as much.
If the Falcons turn this into a grinder, they have a great chance of winning it. The Falcons simply have the better blocking and running back, and so they should press their advantage by running early and often and peppering their playcalling with play action. (That's called alliteration, kids.) If Vick has to sit in the pocket and pass--and I know I sound like a broken record here--the Falcons are barely going to squeak this out, if at all. If you've noticed the doom and gloom tone of this post thus far, you know that I've been burned badly by believing this team was going to thump the Lions last week. Sometimes the lightweight throws the better punches, and it's good to be on the lookout for that. That being said, the Falcons should win this one...again.
Prediction: Falcons win by ten.