In week 5, the talented Falcons offense managed to put up a measley 16 points at home in a must win game to save Dan Quinn. Matt Ryan’s late game interception in the end zone was the symbolic (and maybe literal) end of the Quinn era. With Julio Jones playing again, can Atlanta perform better this time around? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
The good news is that the young players on the Falcons offensive line are playing well. Jake Matthews is still solid in pass blocking while Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary are putting together multiple good games now. Alex Mack and James Carpenter are the weak links in this line at this point, though Mack the clearly better of the two. They still aren’t getting much done in the running game, but they are doing well in passing situations.
The Panthers have found a true edge rusher in Brian Burns. The rest of the defensive line is mostly a bag of meh. Marquis Haynes and Efe Obada are not particularly good while rookie first round pick Derrick Brown is showing promise as an interior disruptor.
Burns is a problem but Matthews and McGary have actually been quite good on the edges this year. If Obada and Brown can generate pressure up the middle, though, it could be a long day for Ryan. As it stands, Atlanta gets a slight edge here.
The skill positions
Despite the talk of trading him, Matt Ryan is actually having a strong season. He did orchestrate what should have been yet another 4th quarter comeback against the Lions and his advance stats show his play has been much improved the past two weeks. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are still both studs on the outside and Russell Gage has turned into a very nice WR3. Hayden Hurst is starting to heat up while Todd Gurley proves to be mostly ineffective as a weapon overall.
The Panthers have some good corners in Donte Jackson and Corn Elder. If Troy Pride Jr is on the field, though, Ryan should target him repeatedly. The safety help won’t be a big difference maker either as Tre Boston isn’t playing well at all this year and neither is rookie second round pick Jeremy Chinn. The once proud linebacking corps is a shell of its former self, with Shaq Thompson unable to carry the load as the main guy in the middle.
Honestly, the corner play for the Panthers could be a factor here. However, with Julio, Gage and Ridley all playing, there is likely going to be some matchups that Ryan will like. The rest of the backfield is struggling to get it done, so Atlanta gets the nod here.
The talent is there for the Falcons to win this matchup, but one name looms large: Dirk Koetter. If he continues to draw up mind numbingly stupid draw plays on 2nd and long and vanilla route patterns in the end zone, we may all be wondering if the Falcons fired the right set of coaches after Thursday night. He is so bad, he may legitimately make this a toss-up. For now, I’m going to go where the data says to go, knowing he’s the potential atomic bomb on offensive success.