With the biggest matchup of the year looming, you could be forgiven for being a little excited and nervous about what’s going to happen in Falcons-Rams. There are so many matchups to break down, but here’s one I’m feeling good about, and one that is causing me some great concern.
One reason to feel confident: The Rams run defense
Los Angeles has actually allowed the fifth-highest yards per game average on the ground to opponents this season, with a whopping average of 122 yards per contest. That is music to the ears of Falcons fans, who surely would like to see Steve Sarkisian and company let Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman run all day. The team has been extremely successful when the ground game is clicking, and Freeman in particular is difficult to handle for 20 carries per game. It also sets the Falcons up to make things happen on play action with both backs, which has been missing from the offense far too often this season.
I’m very confident the Falcons can run for over 100 yards against the Rams, though, and possibly much more than that. That will help them control the tempo of this game, set the passing game up for success, and hopefully wear down a very good Los Angeles front. It is absolutely the best reason to feel confident.
One reason to worry: Todd Gurley
Aaron Donald also rises to the level of a reason to worry, but I expect the Falcons will be giving Ben Garland some help, and hopefully the Falcons will plan to get rid of the ball quickly so Matt Ryan doesn’t get killed. Gurley is priority #1, however.
The MVP candidate is insanely difficult to stop when he’s rolling because of his speed and physicality, and the Falcons have at times struggled to make the open field tackles Gurley is going to require. He’s also a threat in the passing game, as he’s able to catch the ball in the flats and rumble. The Falcons are going to need to be disciplined, tackle well, and not lose sight of Gurley, but he’s going to make them pay if they don’t. Oh, and he also punched in 13 touchdowns on the ground and is one of the league’s premier backs in just about every facet you can imagine. Fun day coming!
If the Falcons can get a lid on Gurley, I think the defense will be in great shape to beat the Rams. It’s just an open question whether they can or not.