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Falcons offense vs. Rams defense: Who wins this matchup?

Please god, find a way to stop Aaron Donald.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons offense has managed to score 30 or more points the last two weeks, though it hasn’t helped the team win games. When they’ve been in the no-huddle, they’ve seemed far more efficient and balanced and one has to wonder if they’ll turn to it more again when they face the Rams on Sunday. If they do, they might have a shot.

Let’s see how this matchup looks on paper.

Note: Assessments partially based on PFF scores.

In the trenches

Right now, the Falcons offensive line is not very good. The best players — Alex Mack and Jake Matthews — are both having down years. James Carpenter and Jamon Brown are not noticeable upgrades at guard, and rookie tackle Kaleb McGary is struggling. Matt Ryan has been under siege all year and things don’t look to be getting better this week. This unit is theoretically capable of better. If this offense is going to score against the Rams, they’ll have to turn that theory into reality.

Michael Brockers is good. Dante Fowler Jr. is decent. Samson Ebukam is OK. Sebastian Joseph-Day is below average. Yet none of this matters, because the best player in the NFL is lined up with them. Aaron Donald is the destroyer of worlds and a generational talent at defensive tackle. Ignore the stats. This man is wrecking offensive lines singlehandedly every week. He’s an equalizer for this defensive front. The rest is just dressing.

Advantage: Aaron Donald

The skill positions

Matt Ryan has been much better the last few games, though the record doesn’t reflect it. Julio Jones has not been his normal self, but he’s always primed to break out. Mohamed Sanu has been good while Calvin Ridley seems criminally misused this year. Austin Hooper is having a breakout season, however. The running back situation has been sad, but Devonta Freeman looked far better against the Cardinals than he has in a while. This unit can be so much more productive, but something cough Koetter cough is holding them back.

Unfortunately, the Rams also have some good players in their secondary. Troy Hill is a decent corner, while Nickell Robey-Coleman is fairly good as well. This team will miss Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, though. Eric Weddle is a seasoned veteran who is still playing well at free safety, and while John Johson isn’t doing as well this year, he’s shown he is capable of much better play in the past. Troy Reeder has been a liability at linebacker while Cory Littleton is playing well next to him. There are some weak spots, but this is a good unit overall.

This matchup isn’t good for the Falcons. They would normally dominate here, but this is a tough call to make. The Rams have several guys capable of making plays in this secondary, but Atlanta does too — if they use them right.

Advantage: Push


If Aaron Donald gets sick before the game, the Falcons will have a much better chance. If he plays, I’m worried about whether Matt Ryan makes it out alive. Unfortunately, until this offensive line lives up to their “first-round players” mantra, the nod easily goes to the Rams here.

Advantage: Rams