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Falcons vs. 49ers Week 15: 3 top matchups for the matchup of the weekend

The Atlanta Falcons match up favorably against the 49ers, and there are three matchups worth calling out.

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

The Atlanta Falcons head into this game favored by two touchdowns, at home, wearing their magical black jerseys, and in better shape on offense than they were just a weak ago. The 49ers may have some sorcery left in their bones, but objectively speaking, they should be crushed by Atlanta. They are a bad football team.

It won’t always be that way, but the Falcons are catching them at a pretty good time, with San Francisco sporting a mediocre offense and lousy defense. I really am not looking to jinx the Falcons or disparage the 49ers, but that’s the way it is.

With that in mind, let’s look at three matchups that will matter. For the second straight week, we can’t mention Julio Jones.

Falcons run defense versus Carlos Hyde & Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick has not had a lot of great games since his 2012 season, to be sure, but he can still scramble with the best of them. Hyde is a potent running back in a bad offense. For a team without Torrey Smith, one of their top options in the passing game, running the ball is going to seem like an attractive proposition.

It helps that the Falcons don’t have a particularly great run defense, one that even struggled a bit to stop Todd Gurley and the Rams attack at times, which hasn’t happened often in 2016. They’re athletic and physical enough to be better (or is it fast and physical?), but the middle of the defensive line has struggled, and the team’s linebackers just haven’t quite gotten there in run support. Hyde and Kaepernick are good enough to make them pay, and the 49ers’ best road to victory involves establishing the run and successfully pounding the rock all game long. Watch closely to see if Atlanta can clamp down.

Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman versus the 49ers defense

The flipside is that the 49ers have to stop the Falcons from running the ball, which doesn’t seem particularly likely.

The 49ers are dead last in yards allowed in the NFL, and have allowed more than 300 yards more than the 31st ranked defense, which is Cleveland. This is one of the worst defenses San Francisco has ever had, and they have not had to face Atlanta’s offense to this point, so this could get ugly in a big hurry.

Without Julio Jones yet again, the Falcons will likely be able to pass successfully, but would probably prefer to get the run going to get through this one as quickly as possible. The Rams did a nice job bottling up Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman a week ago, but these two running backs are overdue for big games, and the 49ers just don’t have the talent to contain them. I’m not predicting anything preposterous like 200 combined yards...but it wouldn’t really surprise me.

Look for Freeman to pick up 100 on the ground, with Coleman mixing in and being a nuisance in the passing game, as well. If the Falcons establish the run and get Freeman rolling early, it’ll likely be over early, as well.

Taylor Gabriel versus the 49ers defense

Gabriel has become a threat to break a major play or two every week, and this week he seems particularly likely to do so, either on the ground, through the air, or both. There just isn’t the footspeed and savvy on this defense to hold him in check all game, and Kyle Shanahan has shown he can figure out creative ways to get Gabriel the ball.

Bold prediction: Five touches for Gabriel, close to 100 yards, and at least one score. This really might be a bloodbath.