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What to know about the Falcons - Colts matchup in Week 3

The Eagles and Vikings were tougher matchups on paper, but this road contest ought to still test the Falcons’ mettle just fine.

NFL: NOV 22 Colts at Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons are headed to Week 3 with a 1-1 record, which they earned through one gutsy, thrilling win and one utter catastrophe of a loss. Getting the full measure of this football team will probably take a little more time, but we’ll get more insight out of the team’s upcoming performance against the equally 1-1 Colts.

Despite their record and some injuries—Darius Leonard is in the concussion protocol—the Colts are a solid team perfectly capable of beating the Falcons on their best day, if Atlanta has an off day, or both. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup ahead.

2019 Ranks & Records

The Colts present an interesting matchup for the Falcons based on the two teams’ performances over the first two weeks of the season.

Atlanta has, to this point, struggled to get the job done on offense. There have been glimpses of greatness here, but fleeting ones, with Matt Ryan’s turnovers really bogging down the team’s overall offensive potential. They’re just 23rd in points scored and 16th in yardage, though they’re top ten in passing yardage at the moment. They still have not been able to run the ball well, but that should start to change as they warm up.

Defensively, they’ve been very strong against opposing passing games, but that comes with a pair of caveats given that Kirk Cousins barely threw the ball and Carson Wentz and his playmakers were injured this past Sunday. They did excellent work against the run with Philadelphia but were gashed by Dalvin Cook in Week 1, so it’s hard to get an exact bead on where they are as a run defense at the moment.

The Colts are well-positioned to be an annoyance in all those regards.

Falcons - Colts 2019 Side-by-Side

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Point Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Point Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 1-1 23 16 9 28 21 3 1 14 10 30
Colts 1-1 14 22 32 2 20 13 9 19 16 11

Indy’s not a great passing offense—in fact, yardage-wise, they’re last in the league—but Jacoby Brissett has gotten the job done with pinpoint passes and by avoiding turnovers. That kind of patient, slow-rolling passing attack has been the kind the Falcons have struggled with at times in the past, and it’s paired with a very dynamic ground attack keyed by the dangerous Marlon Mack. Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, and even Brissett himself are all capable runners, and they’ll be testing to see whether this Falcons run defense really just had a bad game in Week 1, or if they can be tested further.

The defense hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination for Indy, but it’s a very capable one. The Colts have a deep, versatile defensive line capable of generating pressure, with eight sacks and 13 quarterback hits in just two weeks. They’ll try to fare better than the Eagles in getting after Matt Ryan and forcing him to make the kinds of sloppy throws that have unfortunately defined his game for the last two weeks.

The Colts aren’t a great team on paper, but they do a lot of things well and it would be dangerous to underrate them based on their so-so performance to this point. They match up well against Atlanta’s on paper weaknesses, at the very least.

How the Colts have changed

The biggest point of emphasis here is that Andrew Luck is gone. He could be maddening and reckless with the football, but he was also a genuine talent. The downgrade from him to Jacoby Brissett is real, of course, and needs to be remarked upon.

But it’s not like the Colts went from Luck to, say, Tom Savage. Brissett is showing how capable he is in the early going with smart decision-making and a willingness to utilize all the weaponry available to him, and while he’s got the fewest passing yards in the NFL under his belt after two weeks, he also has five touchdowns and just one interception. He’s a patient, savvy passer who can escape the pocket and make a play when he needs to, and the Colts are still a playoff-capable team in a weak AFC South with him at the helm. There will come a time when they miss Luck’s raw ability, but in the early going they’ve been just fine with Brissett.

The big additions here were Justin Houston, rookie center Ryan Kelly, rookie cornerback and Dan Quinn favorite Rock Ya-Sin, rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell, and interesting defensive end Ben Banogu. The Colts have built this roster back up pretty patiently after the failed Ryan Grigson era, and guys like Houston (still a useful pass rusher), Ya-Sin and Kelly (interesting players at positions of need), and Banogu (a developmental option for a team in need of them) are the kinds of additions that matter. The Colts aren’t light years better than they were a year ago—minus Luck, they’re probably worse—but they still have a quality front seven and a ton of interesting weapons on offense. They’re a good team, even if their path to greatness is pretty unclear.

What should you know about this game?

It’s unlikely to be easy, not that you expected otherwise. The Colts will host the Falcons at Lucas Oil Stadium, where they were 6-2 a year ago. They’ll bring to bear a capable passing attack, a strong ground game, and a front seven perfectly capable of teeing off on Matt Ryan if he has a bad day, plus a back seven with real stars. They’re not the best team the Falcons have faced—they just faced two of those teams the last two weeks, mind you—but they’re a good team capable of beating the Falcons on a good day. Point blank.

Frankly, I hesitate to write more because what has seemed certain these past two weeks has proven to be anything but. I’ll forge ahead, however, and say that I fully expect the Colts to lean heavily on their ground game in the early going, with the aerial assault really only becoming a major factor if that strategy does not work. Defensively, the Colts will have seen Ryan’s slip-ups in recent weeks and will hope to get enough pressure to force a handful more, something they are certainly capable of doing. The game will likely come down to (surprise) the lines for the Falcons, and if they hold up as well as they did against Philadelphia, Atlanta ought to win.