The Falcons go out of conference in week four to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Here are three critical in-game matchups to watch.
The team’s backs are against the wall in week four of the 2018 season for the Atlanta Falcons. A 43-37 overtime to division rival New Orleans Saints left a bad taste in the mouth of the team, coaching staff, and fan base.
Coming up for the Falcons is a talented team in the Cincinnati Bengals that possess one of the best receivers in the NFL, an underrated interior defense, and a secondary that has plenty ability to make game-changing plays. So let’s engage on some important matchups within the game to focus on as the Falcons welcome the Bengals to Atlanta.
Falcons cornerbacks vs. Cincinnati WR Tyler Boyd
No, you read correctly.
Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd is emerging as a reliable weapon in the Bengals offense as a third-year receiver out of the University of Pittsburgh. In back-to-back weeks, Boyd has led the Bengals in catches and yards and has scored two touchdowns in that same span. While there is no question that receiver A.J. Green is the clear cut top option, Boyd has one less catch (16 to 15) and only four fewer targets than Green so far this season (25 to 21).
According to Football Outsiders, the Falcons see approximately two more passes per game thrown to #2 receivers compared to #1 receivers (9.7 to 7.8) and with Green possibly entering this game with a groin injury and not 100%, Boyd could be looked upon for a busy afternoon.
Cincinnati Offense vs. Atlanta’s Defensive Takeaways
Here is an aspect of the game that has been a true deficiency for the Falcons over the past few seasons. On the season, the Falcons are 18th in the league with just three takeaways on the season and in their contest against the Saints last week, the defense could not force a takeaway, which may have led to a victory in a back-and-forth overtime dual.
What the Falcons have in an opponent this week is a Cincinnati offense that is 26th in the league in turnovers committed. They are also fresh off a four turnover game last week against Carolina. Coincidentally, all of them were four interceptions thrown by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. To dive a little deeper, in the Bengals last five losses dating back to last season, the offense has committed 10 turnovers.
Whether it is interceptions or fumble recoveries, the Falcons defense has to make an impact on this phase of the game. Especially with the unit dealing with a number of injuries and a young defense still trying to find their footing.
Atlanta’s Rushing Offense vs. Cincinnati’s Rushing Defense
Buried beneath the numbers of a great offensive performance against the Saints, was the fact that the offense had trouble getting the run game going. Posting just 48 yards on 22 carries will not win many, if any, ball games.
Granted, the Falcons are missing their top running back in Devonta Freeman but there is still plenty of talent in the backfield in rushers Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. Which was apparent with the tandem posting 170 rushing yards against Carolina in week two.
The lack of run game played a part in the Falcons offense not being able to control the clock and prevent much-needed Saints possessions last week. This week, the pass game is capable of generating big plays against the Bengals defense but it has been evident in the past that this Falcons offense is significantly more dangerous when the zone running scheme is producing. This Bengals defense is fresh off a contest against Carolina in which they allowed 230 yards on the ground.