Now at 4-4, the Atlanta Falcons have an opportunity to get over .500 with a win over the Cleveland Browns. Here are three in-game matchups to closely monitor.
The vibe is suddenly changing for the Atlanta Falcons after a brutal five game start to the season that saw costly injuries, poor defensive play, and losses piling up by the week. A three-game winning streak over the Bucs, Giants, and Redskins turned the table a little along with a key free agency signing and a new sense of health with the return of a few important names.
What lies ahead for the Falcons now is a game on the road against the Cleveland Browns. A team that has gathered a considerable amount of talent on both sides of the ball but still somewhat lack a sense of direction thanks in part to a midseason coaching change that saw the team lose their former head coach and offensive coordinator. In this still important game for the rising Falcons, take a peek at three matchups within the game that can determine the likely outcome.
Falcons Defensive Line vs. Browns Offensive Line
The Browns offensive line has been a mixed bag for the most part this season. They have struggled in pass protection by allowing 35 sacks already this season and have allowed the fourth most quarterback hits on the season with 61. On the flip side, the run game has been a plus thanks to this unit and have totaled over 100 rushing yards in seven of nine games this season.
The addition of defensive end Bruce Irvin is considered to be a significant boost to the Falcons as they look to add speed and pass rushing to a unit that needs it. The Falcons are coming off an outing against the Redskins in which they bottled up Adrian Peterson to just 17 yards on nine carries. The Browns are ninth in the NFL in rushing yards and have a young combo of Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson to lean on. The Falcons will need a similar effort against a respectable Cleveland run game but there is also a clear opportunity to pick apart a below average group of pass protectors.
Falcons Cornerbacks vs. Browns WR Jarvis Landry
He’s not the fastest and will probably never be a deep threat but one thing is for sure when talking about Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, he has magnetic hands. Of course, as I say that, Landry has a 54.5% catch rate this season which is without a doubt the lowest of his career. Overlook Landry’s numbers a bit, this guy is the Browns best threat in the passing game as evident with his 101 targets on the season, which is 44 more than the next highest on the team. According to Next Gen Stats, Landry is also averaging 3.3 yards of separation which is more of a testament of his smooth route running than his actual speed.
Falcons Offensive Line vs. Browns Defensive Line
Once again, we turn back to the trenches and highlight what may be the strength of the entire Browns team. Just like last week, the Falcons have themselves a physical, young defensive line to line up across, led by defensive end Myles Garrett and his nine sacks. The line also has a growing defensive tackle in Larry Ogunjobi, who has been playing very well this season and is often overlooked.
Their achilles heel is that they allow 138.9 rushing yards per game. They have given up over 100 rushing yards in every game since week two and in week one, they gave up 156 yards to the Steelers. The Falcons showed last week against the Redskins that they can gash tough run defenses as the posted 154 yards on the ground against Washington’s top-5 run unit. Keeping quarterback Matt Ryan upright is just as equally important as Ryan has posted a 114.3 passer rating inside the pocket this season. Another superb game from this unit can likely launch the Falcons to a big win.