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Falcons - Rams: One reason to feel confident, one reason to worry

The Falcons should keep their passing game purring, but virtually everything else is a concern.

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

Is there much to feel confident about this week with the Rams coming to town? Spoiler alert: No. Nonetheless, we have one good reason to feel optimistic and more than one reason to be nervous about this one, if indeed you can still feel nervous about anything the 1-5 Falcons do.

Feel confident that the passing game will eat, again

Right now, Matt Ryan is kind of on fire. Over the last four weeks, he’s tossed 10 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, and that split stands at 7/1 over the last two weeks. The Rams secondary and the addition of Jalen Ramsey is a very, very big deal, and it’s going to make the degree of difficulty for Julio Jones that much higher. But it’s worth noting that the Rams do not have the kind of secondary, at this moment, that can hope to stop this passing attack from making some noise.

You have to worry about the pass rush—more on that below—but Ryan and this passing attack have gotten over 300 yards in six straight weeks and have snagged three or more passing touchdowns in all but two weeks thus far. They’ve done so against secondaries of varying quality, but teams have to be lockdown in their back seven in order to hold the Falcons in check, what with Austin Hooper, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, and the immortal Luke Stocker all working in tandem. The Rams don’t have that kind of talent.

Consider this: They just put one of their top cornerbacks (Aqib Talib) and a quality safety (Jon Johnston) on the shelf thanks to injury. That leaves them with Ramsey starting at one cornerback spot (if indeed he plays), Troy Hill (?) at the other, rookie Taylor Rapp at one safety spot, and Eric Weddle at the other. That’s not awful—the addition of Ramsey virtually ensures that—but there are plenty of holes there. Linebacker is also, while not awful, not a massive strength for Los Angeles.

That means, while Matt Ryan is going to get pressure in his face and probably take a couple of ugly sacks, he also should have a pretty successful day through the air. The question is whether it’ll be successful enough to actually get this team a win.

Worry that the Rams are going to kick Atlanta’s butt

Look, I could limit this to one thing this week, but unfortunately I find it difficult to do so. The problems facing the Falcons in this game are legion, and we’re gonna worry about all of them.

The overarching, umbrella concern is that the Falcons are going to get blown out for the second time in three weeks. That’s because:

  • Jared Goff has been kinda crummy this year but hasn’t faced a pass defense this bad yet;
  • The Rams rushing attack is dangerous, with speedy rookie Darrell Henderson looking exactly like the kind of guy who will take a short gain and turn it into a long touchdown;
  • The receiving corps is a tough out, studded with talent and capable of turning a dink and dunk day by Jared Goff into a huge gain;
  • The offensive line is bad but the Falcons pass rush has gone so quiet that the only thing I’m really confident about is that Takk and Grady Jarrett will get some pressure;
  • Aaron Donald exists and is going to maul the interior of this offensive line;
  • The front seven is good enough, even with injuries, to clamp down on a ground game that had actually gotten going over the last couple of weeks;
  • The Falcons will be able to pass, given the injuries and issues on that side of the ball, but if Jalen Ramsey is playing there’s a strong chance he’ll be able to turn a Matt Ryan forced ball to Julio Jones into a big play;
  • The Rams are, if not more talented across the board, certainly better, even with all their injuries. With Donald, their stars on offense, and now Ramsey, they will absolutely punish this Falcons team unless they’re playing at a level we simply haven’t seen from them this year.

Aside from that, though, nothing to worry about.