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Intriguing Falcons to watch against the Colts

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After a bounce-back win on Sunday Night Football, the Falcons travel to face the Colts in Week 3. Here are some of the most interesting players to watch as Atlanta takes on Indianapolis on Sunday.

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

The Falcons had a strong bounce-back game against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Next up is a road trip to Indianapolis to face the Colts in what should be a interesting Week 3 showdown. The Colts have been a tough out for their first two opponents even without star QB Andrew Luck, with Jacoby Brissett and an impressive rushing attack doing just enough to get Indy to 1-1.

This is by no means a gimme for the Falcons—they’ll need to come to this game ready for a physical contest. Week 3 could once again be decided in the trenches: the Colts are likely to try to control the clock and run the ball early and often, and get after Matt Ryan with their surprisingly good pass rush.

Here are some of the most intriguing Falcons to watch against the Colts during Week 3.

Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith

Let’s face it: the Falcons’ rushing attack has failed to get off the ground over the first two games of the 2019 season. Part of that certainly has to do with facing two of the NFL’s premier run defenses in Minnesota and Philadelphia. This week, the Falcons face a Colts defense that is allowing over 124 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry, and could be down arguably their best defensive player in LB Darius Leonard.

The time is now for the Falcons to prove themselves on the ground. Devonta Freeman has had a slow start to the season, but he should have a much easier time in Week 3. If he can’t get going, it’s entirely possible that Atlanta begins to give more snaps to promising second-year RB Ito Smith—who has looked electric on limited touches through the first two games.

Falcons defensive line

The stellar play of the Falcons defensive line has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2019 season. They were relatively quiet against the Vikings—which isn’t terribly surprising when you’re down 28-0 at one point in the game—but came alive against the elite OL of the Eagles in Week 2. Atlanta managed three sacks and a ton of pressures against a truly formidable unit, and they’ll have another tough test this week against Indianapolis.

The Colts offensive line is perhaps the biggest strength on the team, and they’ve been dominant on the ground through the first two games. Indy is currently T-2nd in the NFL in rushing yardage, averaging 185.0 yards over the first two weeks. The Falcons defensive line will once again need a stellar performance to keep the Colts rushing attack in check, and putting pressure on Jacoby Brissett will be key in limiting their passing offense. Can Atlanta replicate their impressive Week 2 performance on the road this week?

Matt Ryan

While Matt Ryan certainly hasn’t been awful over the first two games of the season, 5 interceptions over two games is completely unacceptable. Ryan’s turnovers doomed any hope of a comeback in Week 1 and kept the game close against the Eagles. That being said, Ryan has been pretty good overall outside of those mistakes.

Ryan now has an opportunity to prove that those first two weeks were outliers. The Colts have a puzzling pass defense: they’re 10th in passing yardage allowed, but 20th in yards per attempt. This isn’t a pushover defense by any stretch, but this is a unit the Falcons should be able to have success against. Ryan and the offense getting Atlanta out to an early lead will be one of the keys to the game, as the Colts’ biggest strength is their rushing attack. Let’s hope Ryan can get back on track in Week 3, and be a little more careful with the football.

Isaiah Oliver and Desmond Trufant

While the Colts aren’t nearly as dangerous in the passing game as they were with Andrew Luck behind center, they still have some dangerous weapons. T.Y. Hilton is still one of the most electric receivers in the NFL, and rookie Parris Campbell has had a pretty impressive start to his NFL career through the first two games. It’ll be up to Desmond Trufant and Isaiah Oliver to limit the damage these two can do through the air.

Trufant had one of the best games of his career against the Eagles, notching two brilliant interceptions and generally looking the part of a shutdown corner. Expect him to draw the matchup against Hilton, which should be an entertaining battle. Oliver is likely to get Campbell, who could be a tough matchup with his athleticism and prowess in space. Oliver had a bounce-back game against Philadelphia after being victimized by Adam Thielen in Week 1—let’s hope he can continue that momentum against Indianapolis.

Kaleb McGary and Jamon Brown

While the Colts defense has struggled to stop the run, they’ve been very effective at generating pressure with 8 sacks through the first two games (tied for 2nd in the NFL). Justin Houston is as dangerous as ever, and DT Denico Autry has had an excellent start to the season with 2.5 sacks already. The new-look right side of the Falcons offensive line will have a stiff test in pass protection, particularly on the interior.

RT Kaleb McGary returned to practice on Thursday, and the hope is that he’ll be full-go for Sunday’s game. It was somewhat hard to gauge his overall performance against the Eagles, as he left the game with injury before returning late, but it was encouraging to see him hold up in spurts against one of the NFL’s most dangerous defensive lines. RG Jamon Brown—who has taken over for injured rookie Chris Lindstrom—had a standout performance against Fletcher Cox, and will have another tough test this week against Autry. How well these two and the rest of the Falcons OL handle Indy’s pass rush could very well decide Sunday’s game.

What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ Week 3 matchup against the Colts? Who are some players you’ll be watching closely on Sunday?