Happy Saturday, folks. We’re on to the weekend and one day away from gameday, which I’m sure isn’t making any of you anxious.
Three games does not a season make, but four games a quarter season does make (?), and so we’re going to have somewhat of a read on where this team is headed by the time they finish this game. Are they capable of beating the so-so teams on their schedule, and should we retain hope? Or are they 1-3, stumbling and bumbling and fumbling and minus a couple of key players already, which means we’re all along for the ride but waiting for Dan Quinn and company to be flung from it?
I imagine this game will be close—they have all been, except for the one where Atlanta got blown out—but I’m also reasonably confident the Falcons will have a fine day through the air, as you’ll see below. The question is whether they can limit the mistakes that have defined this season and put the brakes on Derrick Henry, or if this is going to be an all too familiar song and dance.
Worry about Derrick Henry
The Titans have had a pretty punchless passing attack to this point, and while that could certainly change given Atlanta’s track record of getting passers untracked, I can’t say I think it’s particularly likely. That leaves one major threat on offense, and that threat is Derrick Henry.
Last week I fretted about Atlanta’s overconfidence, which I guess ties into sloppiness. This week, it’s about Henry in particular. He’s been criminally underutilized in Tennessee—just 391 combined carries over the last two seasons—but he’s a surprisingly spry battering ram who has an unfortunate habit of reeling off huge gains. He’s been solid as a runner this season, picking up 210 yards and 3 touchdowns thus far in 2019, but he also had a 75 yard reception to his name and had both a 99 yard reception and 99 yard run a year ago. It doesn’t take a lot of imagine to conceive of what might happen if the Falcons miss a couple of tackles on Henry on Sunday, and he’s the guy this Titans offense more or less has to lean on, so he will not lack for opportunities to bludgeon them to death.
Henry also completed two out of his three passes in 2018, for some reason, so he’s a true triple threat. If the Falcons don’t bottle up Henry, it’ll mean big trouble.
Feel confident about passing the ball effectively
I know how good the Titans pass defense has been to this point, but I also know they’ve only faced a surprisingly rickety Cleveland Browns team, the Gardner Minshew-led Jaguars and their insistence on Leonard Fournetting, and a Colts team that is solid but not spectacular unless they’re facing the Falcons. Atlanta is their stiffest test thus far by a very, very wide margin, and while their performance thus far is in line with their performance a year ago, it looks like Atlanta’s passing game is slowly but certainly rounding into shape in a way most of the team is depressingly not.
Of all the many things that could go wrong in this game—and surely some will—the Falcons being truly held in check through the air is the last thing I worry about. I do worry that Matt Ryan will continue his merry interception-prone ways and that we’ll have another wide receiver disappearance, but overall this is not so fearsome a defense that it should limit the Falcons in the way they were limited against the Vikings, or to a lesser extent, the Eagles. The big question concerns whether the Falcons can stop a so-so offense and avoid the fatal mistakes that killed them against Minnesota and Indianapolis, not whether ol’ Matt Ryan can sling it.