At this point in the season, what can you feel confident about? Against a clearly inferior team like the Panthers, maybe a win. Against a middling team, maybe you could bet on the Falcons to keep it close. Against the 49ers, though, we’re just hoping they can keep it close.
That’s my great fear at this point of the season. I love watching a good win, but with everything that’s happened and the zero percent chance that Atlanta can make the playoffs, losses aren’t going to ruin my Sundays. Blowouts still do, and I remember the foul mood I was in when the Buccaneers stomped them a few weeks back.
So let’s talk more about that blowout potential and one thing to feel confident about Sunday.
Worry the Falcons are going to get stomped
There have been surprise blowouts all year. Atlanta got annihilated by the Texans, beaten badly by Minnesota, and destroyed by the Rams. Knowing the Rams game was going to be ugly did nothing to diminish how awful that was to watch, and that’s why I’m dreading this game a bit.
The 49ers are just one of the best teams in football, injuries aside. Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, and others will be out, which should give Atlanta a puncher’s chance in this one. They are banged up too, though, and obviously much less talented and effective this year than San Francisco. Given that the 49ers are at home and Atlanta’s on the road coming off a win, there aren’t many reasons to feel confident about the outcome here.
Atlanta’s played better, especially on defense, over the past few weeks. They’ve won three out of their last five games after winning one of their first eight, and the defense has actually put together a few good performances. The problem is that the 49ers are not slouches whatsoever, and that Atlanta’s best efforts have been few and far between. Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing attack should be able to make some noise against the Falcons defense, especially with Desmond Trufant on injured reserve, the ground game is very good, and the pass rush is still a major problem even if Dee Ford is going to be out Sunday. The Falcons at their best can keep this one close—they only really fall apart against AFC teams and teams they’re supposed to be able to hang with—and this late in the year it feels like they’ve figured out enough to hang in there.
I worry it’ll be a blowout, though.
Feel confident the Falcons can and will throw
The 49ers defense is plenty good, but it’s not quite as dominant as it was early in the year. Atlanta’s passing attack has the potential to be dominant, even without Calvin Ridley, and they’re catching San Francisco at the right time.
As I already mentioned, Sherman and Ford are out, which is a significant loss for the pass defense. Not having to account for Ridley will help, but the Falcons still do have the personnel to be formidable. That’s especially true now that they appear to have a healthy Julio Jones and Austin Hooper back in action, and now that Chris Lindstrom is in the lineup and hopefully solidifying a formerly shaky offensive line. After Drew Brees and company put up 46 points and threw all day against them, I imagine the Falcons will at least have a solid day through the air.
That’s the brightest note I can think of.