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What to know about the Falcons - Rams matchup in Week 7

The Rams are banged up and the Falcons are at home, but this is still going to be one of the most difficult games yet.

NFL: JAN 06 NFC Wild Card - Falcons at Rams Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2019 Ranks & Records

The Rams are, to many within their fanbase, somewhat of a disappointment. The 49ers are undefeated and the Seahawks are on fire behind Russell Wilson’s MVP-caliber season, while the Rams are sitting at .500 and just sort of...existing. But they’re existing at a reasonably high level, even so.

Falcons - Rams Comparison

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 1-5 16 7 2 29 31 26 27 20 29 19
Rams 3-3 10 12 6 22 24 12 16 16 15 26

The Rams have been hamstrung by a lot of turnovers on offense and a quietly mediocre season from Jared Goff, who is not taking the step forward you might have anticipated he would after steeping himself in Sean McVay’s hot water of knowledge. I’m sorry, that one really fell apart.

For all that, though, the Rams are self-evidently a dangerous offense. They’re loaded with playmakers to bail Goff out, they have a potent ground game that is only starting to get speedy nightmare rookie Darrell Henderson involved, and the only thing really holding them back now is a shaky offensive line and Goff. They’re plenty good enough to put a hurting on this defense, given that lesser lights like Arizona, Houston, and especially Tennessee have been doing so for weeks.

Defensively, they’re just plain dangerous. With Aqib Talib out there’s little doubt Matt Ryan will have success against this secondary—Marcus Peters, weirdly, stinks—but the front seven is beyond problematic for an offensive line with injuries and an up-and-down performance record thus far in 2019. Aaron Donald alone against the likes of James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, Wes Schweitzer, and Alex Mack is going to be difficult to work around.

Atlanta, meanwhile, is improving offensively but in freefall on defense. They aren’t getting turnovers, they aren’t getting sacks or much in the way of pressure, and coverage is still a problem. The Falcons have preyed on a pair of shaky defenses in Houston and Arizona and won’t have quite as easy a time here, which makes this potentially a very ugly matchup.

How the Rams have changed

The Rams lost two key players this offseason, with Rodger Saffold going to Tennessee and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh heading to the Buccaneers. That weakened both lines, and those changes have been noticeable in both cases. Oh, and they let veteran center John Sullivan walk, which also hurts. Their other losses—like disappointing LaMarcus Joyner and Mark Barron leaving—did not hurt as much.

They did make some nice additions, including veteran safety Eric Weddle, drafting promising rookie back Darrell Henderson, and of course adding the immortal Blake Bortles to the quarterback room. Overall, though, this Rams team resembles last year’s version on paper.

The changes that go beyond adding and subtracting players that haven’t worked out have chiefly been health-related. Todd Gurley is still doing stellar work but is on pace to have a career-low number of carries in 2019, and now Henderson is pushing for more work in that backfield. They literally just lost Aqib Talib for a while and lost guard Joe Noteboom for the season, safety John Johnston has a shoulder injury, reserve back Malcolm Brown is hurt, and Clay Matthews broke his jaw in Week 5 and won’t be back for a while. The Rams, for all their foibles and Sean McVay’s borderline pathological lying about injuries, are still a very good football team. Injuries are the thing that stands to impact them the most.

What should you know about this game?

The Falcons should be considered massive underdogs. They have now dropped four straight games that looked winnable on paper, with the ugliest coming against the Texans and Titans, and they’re now playing their best opponent on paper since Week 2. The Rams have all the ingredients for a dominant passing attack, and the Falcons have made the likes of recently-benched Marcus Mariota look good through the air. The Rams have the best rushing attack the Falcons have seen in a while. The Rams have the best defense the Falcons have seen in a while. And so on.

It pains me to say it, but barring the Rams absolutely melting down—and to be clear, it would not be the first time they’ve done that in 2019—I just don’t see how Atlanta walks out of this one with a win. Being at home hasn’t been a huge advantage for them thus far, the defense hasn’t come together even against cupcake opponents, and the organization is generally in disarray. We know the Falcons can beat the Rams at their absolute best, but we have yet to see Atlanta come close to playing that well. The best hope is that they finally get some turnovers and the offense keeps clicking, but that does seem like a dim hope.