After a less than thrilling start to the regular season, the Falcons are hoping to bounce back on the road against the up and coming Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finished 7-9 in 2015, but are considered one of the most intriguing teams of 2016 because of the bounty of talent on the roster. Players like Khalil Mack, David Carr and Amari Cooper are young and already appear to be top-notch players in the league. This is going to be a very tough road game for the Falcons. Today, we’ll take a look at how the Falcons offense matches up against the Raiders defense.
In the Trenches
It all starts in the trenches, and this is where some of the more interesting match ups will take place. The Falcons OL had a rough day against the Bucs, with Jake Matthews and Chris Chester struggling a good bit. Despite those struggles, the Falcons appear to have a decent OL, with two good tackles, a Pro-Bowl center and two middling guards in Andy Levitre and Chris Chester.
On the other side, the Raiders have one of the better young pass rushers/edge defenders in the league in Khalil Mack. Taken one spot ahead of Jake Matthews in the 2014 draft, Mack is a complete player who can defend the run and get after the QB. Free agent signing Bruce Irvin can also be disruptive, meaning that Matthews and Ryan Schraeder need to be at their best for the team to have a chance. In the middle, the combination of Dan Williams, Justin Ellis and Stacy McGee are not as intimidating as Gerald McCoy, but they shouldn’t be slept on.
This could be a tough match up for the Falcons, and Jake Matthews in particular needs to cleanup from his rough week 1 foibles. This will also be another test for Schraeder, and if the interior line can’t hold up, the Falcons may have a very difficult time scoring.
The Skill Positions
The Falcons bring in one of the best receivers in the league in Julio Jones, and an apparently rejuvenated Mohamed Sanu. Jacob Tamme is a decent receiving tight end, while Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are good running backs if they’re given enough room to work. The only game-changer here is Jones, but he’s enough of one that it opens up opportunities for everyone else. Sanu showed last week that he can take advantage of those, while Coleman surprised everyone with his increased presence in the passing game. Matt Ryan still doesn’t look like a great fit for the Shanahan offense, but he’s capable of putting the ball in the hands of any of these guys.
On the other side, the Raiders have CB Sean Smith, who has been somewhat inconsistent and was torched last week against the Saints. David Amerson is a younger corner who started coming on strong last year. Safeties Keith McGill and Reggie Nelson are capable defenders as well. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and Ben Heeney are decent players, but shouldn’t be confused for Pro-Bowlers either.
This match up appears to favor the Falcons, and if the Raiders game against the Saints is any indication, the Falcons should be able to move the ball against this secondary. Julio could have a big day, if the Raiders can’t commit to doubling him on every play and if they do, look for Sanu, Tamme and Coleman to get tons of good looks because of it.
The Raiders gave up 34 points to Drew Brees and the Saints last week, so at first glance, this appears to be a good match up for the Falcons. However, Mack and Irvin still represent a significant pass rushing threat that Atlanta needs to be able to hold up to. That said, the Raiders appear to be vulnerable in the passing game, which bodes well for Ryan, Julio and Sanu.
It will be close, and Matthews and Schraeder need to have good games for it to happen, but I think the Falcons edge out the Raiders in this match up, even if just barely.