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Falcons defense vs. Colts offense: Who wins this matchup?

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Can Atlanta replicate their impressive Sunday Night Football performance?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons bounced back in a big way when they beat the Eagles in prime time in week 2. Will that big victory cause them to be flat against an Indianapolis Colts team that lost Andrew Luck to early retirement before the season? If they are, this could be a long Sunday afternoon, as this match up may be closer than many realize.

Note: Assessments based partially on PFF scores

In the trenches

The Falcons defensive line took a major step forward against the Eagles. They dominated one of the best offensive lines in the NFL through all four quarters. Grady Jarrett and Takkarist McKinley led the charge, but guys like Tyeler Davison, Adrian Clayborn, Allen Bailey and Vic Beasley all contributed as well. That said, it’s hard to say for sure if they’ve turned the corner or not. The only consistent guy in this group is Jarrett, so there’s the potential for a lot of variance here. That said, they did show that they can hang with (and even dominate) top talent when it comes together - that counts for something.

The Colts offensive line is a pretty strong one as well. Anthony Castonzo is a top-5 left tackle while Quenton Nelson next to him is turning into one of the better young left guards in the league. Ryan Kelly is decent in the middle, and Braden Smith at right tackle is a quality starter. The weak link is at right guard with Mark Glowinski, who is merely serviceable. This is actually a pretty good unit, though maybe not as good as the one Philadelphia puts on the field weekly.

For now, optimism says to go with the Falcons but Atlanta fandom says don’t get your hopes up. I do think Atlanta will aggressively attack Glowinski, a strategy that paid off for them against the Eagles. Slight, slight nod to the positively trending defensive line.

Advantage: Falcons

The skill positions

Desmond Trufant’s two interceptions were huge in the win on Sunday, but his overall play has been far better this year as well. Isaiah Oliver is still a work in progress, but is showing signs of getting better. Ricardo Allen is a quality leader and starter in the secondary while Keanu Neal is still prone to some coverage gaffes. Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun can fly in the middle of the field and may be one of the faster linebacking corps in the entire NFL. This unit covers receivers and tight ends fairly well, though they do seem prone to giving up chunk yards to receiving backs.

At QB, Jacoby Brissett is no Andrew Luck, but he’s no pushover either. He’s actually a capable starter that fans shouldn’t sleep on. At running back, Marlon Mack has quietly turned into one of the better young running backs in the league. At receiver, T.Y. Hilton is still an exceptional receiver, but the quality falls of drastically behind him. Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers don’t scare many defenses. Eric Ebron is still looking to deliver on his incredible promise coming out of college. Tight End Jack Doyle is a pretty good veteran receiving option, but is not someone who will take over a game.

The Eagles offense offered far more dangerous weapons and a better QB last week. If Atlanta replicates that performance, this match up won’t be very close. However, Hilton is someone that can cause a lot of damage by himself, so he’s the name to watch here. If he can consistently break free, he could bring this match up to parity very quickly. Nod to the Falcons for overall better quality and depth.

Advantage: Falcons

Overall

As you can imagine, the Colts offense isn’t what it used to be under Luck. They’re currently ranked 22nd in overall offense while the Falcons defense is currently ranked 3rd overall. Those are based on small sample sizes, so take it with a huge grain of salt. While I like Brissett and think he’s a quality starter, the rest of the weapons outside of Hilton are uninspiring. That said, Atlanta needs to keep the momentum going or this could be a trap game for them.

Advantage: Falcons