The Falcons offense has been a Jekyll & Hyde unit this year. They scored 32 and 33 points against the Texans and Cardinals, respectively. Somehow, they only managed 10 against the Rams and Titans. Under the leadership of Dirk Koetter, Austin Hooper is the only player having a great season. Can they finally get on track against this Seahawks defense? Let’s take a look.
Note: Assessments partially based off of PFF scores.
In the trenches
The Falcons offensive line has been a major disappointment this year. Our two best players - Alex Mack and Jake Matthews - are both having down years, though they are still the two best in this unit. The rotation of guys at guard has been bad. James Carpenter, Jamon Brown and Wes Schweitzer are just not getting it done. They’re on pace to out-bad the 2018 unit, which nearly got Matt Ryan killed. Kaleb McGary has been getting welcomed to the NFL every week and needs to turn it around soon or he could be benched for Ty Sambrailo (yikes) or Matt Gono. The front office tried to address this unit, but it just hasn’t worked.
The Seahawks are not the defensive terror they used to be. They have 11 sacks on the season, which puts them in the bottom third of the league, though they are in the top-10 of QB Rating allowed at 84.9. Their main defensive front is made up of Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods, Jarran Reed and Jadeveon Clowney. This is a good unit and Clowney in particular is having a great season. Ezekiel Ansah comes in on 3rd downs to help get to the QB, too. This is a fairly good unit, though not as dominant as we’re used to seeing.
Unfortunately, Atlanta’s offensive line just doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt right now. When All-Pro Alex Mack is struggling, you know something has gone off-the-rails. Let’s hope they get their act together on Sunday.
The skill positions
The big question for Atlanta is whether Matt Ryan will play. Matt Schaub is actually a capable backup, but not having Ryan will hurt. With Mohamed Sanu gone to New England, it will be up to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to do the most damage. Guys like Russell Gage and Justin Hardy will likely come in for 3 receiver sets. Austin Hooper is someone to watch, as he’s having a great season so far. With Ito Smith ruled out already, the Falcons will turn to Devonta Freeman and Brian Hill to try to get this dismal running game going. This is a unit with talent, but it’s either being misused or is under-performing or both.
The Legion of Boom is no more. With key players like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman either retired or on other teams, the quality of this secondary has taken a step back. Shaquill Griffin is one of the bright spots on this unit, having his best year yet. Tre Flowers is struggling in his second year and safeties Tedric Thompson and Quandre Diggs are a huge step down from days of yore. The linebackers are still a good unit, though, with Bobby Wagner still being great in the middle and K.J. Wright a good compliment next to him. That said, both guys are not playing up to their normal standards so far this season. Mychal Kendricks rounds out this group as someone who has been inconsistent over his career.
Atlanta’s receivers have a favorable match up here. What remains to be seen is who will be throwing them the ball and whether Dirk Koetter can come up with something more creative than a bunch of 5 and 10 yard digs. From a talent standpoint, Atlanta gets a slight edge, but that could change depending on the play-calling and the health of their once MVP QB.
If the Atlanta offensive line were playing better, this might be an easier match up for the Falcons to win. As it stands, though, they’re enough of a liability to make taking advantage of a weaker secondary difficult. This match-up should heavily favor Atlanta, but this offensive line is the wrong kind of equalizer.