After dismantling a top defense in the Arizona Cardinals, Falcons fans have to be feeling pretty good about this dynamic offense again. That said, they will face yet another good defense when the Kansas City Chiefs come into town. Don’t sleep on this team, as they are 8-3 and playing very good football. Will Atlanta’s offense be able to keep up their offensive fireworks?
In the Trenches
The Falcons offensive line bounced back impressively against the Cardinals. Going against Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones, the line gave Matt Ryan time to operate out of the pocket for most of the game. Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder are having Pro Bowl caliber seasons, while Jake Matthews and Andy Levitre are playing well above the league average. Chris Chester remains the weak link on this line, although he’s still putting in a good game here and there. This is a good offensive line when they’re not shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. They’ve faced tough pass rushing competition this year, and have held up well (mostly). They’ll face another stiff contest this Sunday, though.
The Chiefs have a formidable front seven. Dontari Poe is a powerful force in the middle, while Chris Jones is having a nice rookie year. Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been inconsistent (and not particularly good) but has shown flashes of getting better in his second year. Tamba Hali is on the back-end of his career, but can still play at a high level, while Justin Houston is arguably one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. When you add in Dee Ford - who already has 10 sacks on the year - you have one heck of a pass rushing team. The inside linebackers - Ramik Wilson and the always great Derrick Johnson - are no slouchers either.
In many ways, this may be the toughest front seven we’ll face this year, and is certainly one of the best in the NFL. They are no slouches and Falcons fans can’t just assume that we’ll handle them like we have other units. That said, the Falcons OL bounced back nicely and have the added benefit of playing in the Dome. If this were in KC, the advantage would definitely go to them, so I’m calling this one dead even.
The Skill Positions
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are having All-Pro caliber seasons, so I’m not sure how much more we can say about those stalwarts. Mohamed Sanu is beginning to find his stride in this offense as a possession receiver, while Taylor Gabriel has “take the top off” speed that should frighten the hell out of any defensive coordinator. Levine Toilolo doesn’t intimidate anyone as a receiving tight end, while rookie Austin Hooper still has a lot of room to grow, though he’s showing signs of improvement. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are one of the best one-two punches in the league, with both capable of carrying or catching the rock. This is an incredibly deep and talented unit, with speed at multiple levels and the ability to create mismatches everywhere. Very few defenses have the sheer talent to cover every weapon the Falcons have.
The Chiefs have one of the better young corners in the league in Marcus Peters. He’s a ball-hawk who has a knack for finding the ball, and the Falcons will want to be careful when throwing in his direction. Opposite of him, though, Phillip Gaines is having a down year and could be an opportunity to exploit. Their nickel corner Kenneth Acker isn’t awful, but he’s not particularly good either. Outside of Peters, these corners aren’t particularly intimidating. The Chiefs do have two very good safeties, though, with Ron Parker and the fantastic Eric Berry being solid in coverage and run support. It’s not a “complete” secondary, but there are definitely some very good players back there.
Simply put: unless you can field 3 top corners and 2 top safeties, along with good coverage linebackers, you’re going to have a hard time stopping all of Atlanta’s weapons. The Chiefs come close, but having only one good corner is just not enough to match up to the Falcons arsenal of weapons.
I think this is going to be a difficult game for the Falcons. This is a quality Chiefs defense and their ability to rush the passer terrifies me. Kyle Shanahan and Matt Ryan will have their work cut out for them, but I do think they’ll do just enough to put enough points on the board. It won’t be easy, but the Falcons will take a very slight advantage into this match-up.