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Falcons defense vs. 49ers offense: who wins?

The Falcons once again face off against an offensive unit that struggles to do... anything, so the defense has another chance to shine this week.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last week versus the Rams, the Atlanta defense played its best game of the season. It is tough to tell whether it was due to the poor competition they were facing, a true step forward for the young group, or a mixture of both, but it doesn’t matter much anymore, as the San Francisco 49ers are making the trip to Atlanta this Sunday. The 49ers are looking for their second win of the season and their first win with Colin Kaepernick at the helm of the offense—the 26th ranked scoring offense in the NFL.

The Falcons defense has momentum but, as we all know, that means very little with a group as inconsistent as the Atlanta defense. Much like last week, this will be a matchup that someone simply has to win. Here is how we see it shaking out.

In the trenches

If I was strictly looking at the Pro Football Focus ratings without any context, this would be an outright advantage for Atlanta: the 49ers only have one offensive lineman (Andrew Tiller, LG) that is rated above a 55 on the year. Trenton Brown and Zane Beadles have not performed well at all throughout the season, so the opportunity will be there for Vic Beasley continue his tear of great play, as well as Brooks Reed and Dwight Freeney.

I would also expect Grady Jarrett to have a decent game against Marcus Martin, who is replacing the injured Daniel Kilgore after he got hurt last week, so there should be a lot of opportunity for the Falcons to play on the 49ers’ side of the line of scrimmage and create some negative plays. Carlos Hyde has been playing very well of late, but the offensive line feels like too much to overcome for even the most talented of backs.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Skill positions

Obviously, things are bad for the 49ers along the offensive line and things, unfortunately for them, don’t get much better as we move further from the line of scrimmage. Of the six remaining players in the 49ers offense, only two of them are rated above a 55 for the entire 2016 season—that is crazy. Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Kerley both sit around a 74 rating for this season, but every other member of that unit is really really struggling this season. With Torre Smith officially out for the game on Sunday, the 49ers will have to rely on Hyde and Kerley, putting more pressure on Kaepernick to play well in order to give his team a shot.

Robert Alford and Brian Poole both had solid games last week so it will be key for them to bring some consistency to the defense this week as they try to string two good games together for the first time all season. The injury to Jalen Collins creates some uncertainty for the secondary, though. Nonetheless, I like the matchup with Keanu Neal, Brian Poole, and Alford against the San Francisco wide receivers and tight ends, for the most part. As long as the Atlanta secondary stays disciplined and simply makes the plays that are there, their job shouldn’t be too difficult this week—we all know that isn’t guaranteed, though.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons


This matchup will really come down to which group will be more disciplined and make the least amount of mistakes. If Atlanta starts slow and gives up chunk plays, this game will be a lot more stressful than it should be. On paper, the Falcons should win this matchup simply because they are the better group, but injuries, youth, and inexperience can nullify a lot of that, sometimes. Assuming the Falcons get some pressure on Kaepernick and limit the number of big plays to Carlos Hyde or the 49ers wide receivers, I like their chances.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons