Michael Aprile is the editor-in-chief of fellow Falcons site Rise Up Reader, where you can find more Falcons coverage. He is a cohost of the Falcoholic post-game podcast that airs weekly.
In the midst of an unthinkable three game losing streak to the AFC East, the Falcons head into the Meadowlands in desperate need of a win.
Even though the Falcons’ offense is moving the ball well, they aren’t scoring, and many are now calling for Steve Sarkisian to hit the road. Regardless of how warm Sark’s seat actually is, he’ll need a big game soon to win the fans back.
A matchup against a Jets’ defense currently 19th in the league, allowing 23 points per game could be exactly what Sark needs to get back on track. There’s just one thing—the weather is expected to be nasty come Sunday, which could force the Falcons to lean on the run. That might not be such a bad thing.
Falcons’ running backs vs. Jets’ linebackers and safeties
Devonta Freeman (4.7 YPC) and Tevin Coleman (5.2 YPC) are both having solid years, the problem has been a lack of usage, particularly when it makes sense to run the ball.
Against a Jets team entering the game 28th against the run, the Falcons need to establish the run early and get back to their ways of winning the time of possession battle.
The Jets have some serious young talent on their defense led by safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, and speedy linebacker Darron Lee.
Adams and Maye are a physical tandem not afraid to come up and flick the hit stick on a ball carrier, and Lee has the type of sideline-to-sideline speed that made him a coveted prospect for many Falcons fans.
Falcons’ pass rush vs. Jets’ offensive line
After a hot start, the Falcons’ pass rush has been disappointing as of late.
The team didn’t register a sack against the Dolphins, and although they notched two of Tom Brady in the Sunday night fog bowl, there wasn’t enough pressure consistently applied by the defense to make much of an impact.
With starting RT Brandon Shell ruled out for this one, Vic Beasley has an ideal matchup on the right side and should take full advantage. Six weeks removed from his Week 2 hamstring tear and having no reported setbacks, Beasley should be much closer to 100% and ready to get back his dominant self.
The Jets have allowed 22 sacks this season (6th worst in the NFL), so Atlanta should see little resistance to the quarterback.
Matt Ryan vs. Jets’ defense
This is an obvious and vague matchup, but it’s one that needs to be discussed. Matt Ryan has had a solid, albeit unlucky year. It’s not quite on par with his 2016 MVP season, but there’s little reason to think Ryan can’t get back on that track.
The numerous tipped interceptions are infuriating for those watching, but no one feels them more than Ryan does. With the team struggling to put the ball in the end zone, Ryan needs to be a bit more crisp on his deep balls and find better timing with his receivers. Checking to a run play here and there won’t hurt, either.
The Jets may be without star defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, a player that could easily cause havoc against this Falcons’ offensive line. Rising star DT Leonard Williams is expected to play, and he’ll give the interior issues all day long.
The Jets will be without starting cornerback Buster Skrine, an injury Ryan and the Falcons will need to take full advantage of. If the weather permits, this should be a game in which the Falcons can air it out against a team that has allowed 15 passing touchdowns this year—tied for worst in the league with New England.
Which matchups are you looking forward to the most?