After three straight weeks of offensive malaise, you’d be excused for questioning whether this Falcons offense could score against a middle-school team at this point. While the last three performances have convinced many fans that this team will never score again, there’s always the potential for an awakening, especially since the talent is there. Let’s see how that talent stacks up against the Jets defense.
Note: Assessments based off of PFF Edge scoring and trends
In the trenches
The Falcons offensive line is still considered one of the better lines in the league. Alex Mack is having another career year and is one of the best in the league at his position. Andy Levitre is the second best graded player and continues to be a reliable force in pass blocking and run blocking. Wes Schweitzer started the year horribly, but has gotten better with each game and looks like a competent starter now. Jake Matthews has had an up and down season, but is still playing decently. Ryan Schraeder had a rough game against the Dolphins, but is otherwise a very good player on the right side. This is a quality line, despite what the offensive output currently looks like.
Don’t let the Jets reputation fool you - they’ve got some decent players on this defensive line. In the middle, Steve McLendon is a decent nose tackle. Former first round pick Leonard Williams can be very disruptive. On the opposite end, Muhammad Wilkerson may not be playing his best ball, but he has the ability to be an absolute force based on his history of strong performances. Outside linebackers David Bass and Jordan Jenkins aren’t exactly piling up sacks, but they’re no scrubs either. In nickel sets, Kony Ealy does a good job of setting the edge, but has no sacks on the season so far.
The Jets have enough talent to potentially cause havoc on the defensive line, but the Falcons have just enough to thwart it. This will be a close match-up to watch, but favors Atlanta even if just slightly.
The skill positions
Despite the recent struggles with scoring, the Falcons still have the talent to do so. QB Matt Ryan has struggled with deep ball accuracy this year but is still sharp on the short and intermediate throws. Julio Jones remains an alien from space with an unfair advantage over mere mortals, while Mohamed Sanu has had a very strong season for the Falcons thus far. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are fantastic, with both needing more touches if this offense is going to thrive again. Guys like Austin Hooper, Taylor Gabriel and Justin Hardy will likely see any remaining looks in the passing game, and each is capable of delivering. This is a talented group that has to find some way to pull it together (eyes are on you Steve Sarkisian).
The Jets aren’t nearly as strong in the secondary. Inside linebacker Darron Lee has disappointed thus far while Demario Davis is having a decent season next to him. Safety Marcus Maye is also playing well, while strong safety Jamal Adams gets merely a passing grade so far. CB Buster Skrine has been bad this year, reflective of his overall play since 2011. Morris Claiborne is playing far better than Skrine, but is not what you’d consider a top 10 corner in the league. In nickel sets, Darryl Roberts has been playing decently, but is not a shutdown corner either.
Let’s be honest - the Falcons talent should overwhelm almost any group in the NFL, and the Jets are no exception. On paper, the Falcons should absolutely dominate this one, but I think we’ve all given up on expecting it. Let’s hope the paper dominance can translate to on-the-field dominance.
Look, I get it. No one wants to hear that the Falcons have a favorable match-up. They’ve had one for weeks and have done nothing with it. Until our offensive coordinator figures things out, this paper dominance will remain just that. However, IF Sark can pull things together, there’s reason to believe this Falcons offense can begin scoring points in bunches again. Let’s hope the paper match-up finally materializes on the field this weekend.