The Falcons offense has been hit or miss this year. When they’ve been on, they’ve been an unstoppable force capable of scoring on any defense. When they haven’t been on, they’re mistake prone and incredibly frustrating. They’ll seek redemption against a Ravens defense that has been exposed in recent weeks. Here’s how the units match up.
Note: Assessments based on PFF scores
In the trenches
The Falcons offensive line is an enigma. After losing starters Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland have actually played decently in their stead. They have, however, had consistency issues. Jake Matthews is playing like a top-7 left tackle while Alex Mack is playing well, if not at his normal All-Pro levels. Ryan Schraeder has been the most disappointing player on the line, looking like someone who has lost a step and gets beat regularly by good pass rushers.
The Ravens defensive front is not bad. Brandon Williams is a run-stopping force in the middle. Guys like Chris Wormley, Brent Urban and Michael Pierce are all capable of shutting down the run as well. There’s not really a bad player on this line, though none of these guys are particularly dominant either. Edge rushers Za’Darius Smith, Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs and Tyus Bowser all can get after the QB and the team has 32 sacks on the season to show for it.
The Falcons aren’t looking at a great matchup here. This is a unit that can shut down the run and get after the QB. They’ll need their best from guys like Schraeder, Garland (or Zane Beadles) and Schweitzer if they’re going to be effective against this unit.
The skill positions
Despite recent offensive struggles, the Falcons still boast an impressive set of offensive firepower. Matt Ryan is having a strong season even if the record doesn’t reflect it. Julio Jones is ... well, Julio. Mohamed Sanu is consistent in traffic. Calvin Ridley has been an enigma, showcasing incredible ability while offsetting it with horrid drops and fumbles. Austin Hooper has stepped up this year and become a trusted weapons for Ryan. Tevin Coleman hasn’t exactly made a case for a big contract, but Ito Smith has been impressive for a rookie runner. This is a unit that should be able to score, but finds new ways to frustrate fans.
The Ravens interior linebackers are not bad, but they aren’t of the caliber the Falcons have seen earlier in the year. C.J. Mosley is the better of the two, playing well against the run and decently in coverage while Patrick Onwuasor is decent in coverage but a liability against the run. CB Jimmy Smith has been inconsistent this year while Marlon Humphrey has been much better on the other side. Brandon Carr is also playing well in nickel sets. The Ravens do have two good safeties in Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Both guys can play the run well and are solid in coverage. This Ravens unit does have some holes to be exploited, but it’s a solid unit overall.
The Ravens secondary and linebackers are good, but they lack the shutdown corner that elite defenses would use to match up against Julio. The Falcons won’t have an easy time, but they have a slight advantage here if they can just get out of their own way.
This will ultimately come down to whether the Falcons offensive line can hold up and whether the Falcons skill position players can stop making horrible mistakes. If both of those things happen, the team can bounce back. If not, this could be a very long afternoon.