Obviously, this is an easier thing to write when the Falcons are doing well, because there’s always at least one reason to worry, but there are also legitimate reasons to feel confident. This week, I found a workaround for a game that I’m feeling quite pessimistic about.
Feel confident the Falcons will surprise you
This is not the most positive note, but in a game that looks like a difficult road matchup it’s perhaps the best one I can muster.
The Falcons have not done what they were supposed to do at any point this year. They haven’t passed when you would think they could pass, and they haven’t made use of their weapons in a way you’d anticipate. They’ve fallen down on their strengths and somehow (though it hasn’t been that impactful) shored up some obvious weaknesses, like their usually terrible run defense and to a lesser extent their pass rush. They won a game against the Eagles I think most of us assumed they wouldn’t win, but they lost a gimme home game against the Titans. And so forth.
So I feel fairly confident saying, now that most of us have all but given the Falcons up for dead, that they’ll find a way to surprise us on Sunday. I’m not suggesting they’ll win—that might be a bridge too far on the road against the kind of offense that can absolutely crack them in half—but I do think that after a series of crushing disappointments, the Falcons might have a surprisingly game performance up their sleeve.
Or they’ll fumble a franchise record number of times. Those Falcons! So full of surprises!
Worry Atlanta will be unable to keep Matt Ryan upright
Out of all the many concerns for this game, this is my #1. Containing Deshaun Watson, bottling up Carlos Hyde, and the parade of penalties that have defined this season all pale in comparison to how bad this one could get for Matt Ryan.
Consider this: The Falcons are down not just their starting right guard, but potentially their reserve too. Alex Mack is making progress but may not be 100%, forcing Wes Schweitzer into action one way or the other. James Carpenter has struggled mightily the last couple of weeks, Jake Matthews is not having his best year, and Kaleb McGary is predictably facing some rookie struggles with speed off the edge. This is not an offensive line that has played up to snuff most of the year, and injuries only make that worse.
Ryan has already had one of his worst starts to the year in recent memory, tossing six interceptions and throwing some legitimately bad balls in between stretches where he looks like his old self. If he’s running for his life or absorbing sacks all day thanks to the likes of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, this offense is going to stall out again, and we’re headed for another very long Sunday afternoon.