The Falcons offense has been a disappointment again this year. Todd Gurley can’t get going in this running scheme. The team has scored 30 points just 3 times in 10 games and has been held to 25 points or less 6 times. Will a matchup against the Raiders help fix these poor trends? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
The Falcons offensive line got abused by the Saints. This is a capable unit, but they were a disaster last Sunday. On the positive side, Chris Lindstrom looks like the real deal while Kaleb McGary has been up and down. Jake Matthews had a few rough plays but has generally been stable on the left side. Alex Mack is still good, but not quite great anymore and James Carpenter needs to be replaced - badly. Against a fierce pass rush, these guys aren’t getting it done but that may not be an issue this week.
Amazingly, the Raiders defensive front has fewer sacks than the Falcons. In fact, they’re second to last in the league with just 11 on the year. Carl Nassib, Johnathan Hankins, Maliek Collins and Maxx Crosby are just not getting it done. Crosby has 6 sacks and no one else has more than 1.5. This unit is generally ok against the run, though that’s nothing to write home about either.
For the first time in a while, the Falcons OL will face a defensive line that may be worse than theirs. Amazing.
The skill positions
Last Sunday not withstanding, Matt Ryan has been playing better as of late. When he’s been given a good pocket, he’s looked like his old self. The problem is when that breaks down consistently as it did against the Saints. He’s got a good stable of receivers, though the health of Julio Jones looms large. Calvin Ridley will be leaned on heavily while guys like Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheus and Christian Blake may need to step up again. Todd Gurley isn’t getting it done as a runner and Hayden Hurst just isn’t making much of a mark either. This is a unit with talent, but Dirk Koetter is finding new ways to squander it.
Luckily for the Falcons, the starting corners for the Raiders are not great. Tayvon Mullen, first rounder Damon Arnette and Nevin Lawson are all graded quite poorly in coverage per PFF. The linebackers are a good group, though, with Nick Kwiatkoski being quite good in coverage and Kyle Wilber being good against the run. LB Nicholas Morrow is the weak link here. Safety Jeff Heath is a quality coverage guy while Johnathan Abram is struggling badly next to him.
The Raiders have two to three capable guys in the back half, but that’s not going to be enough.
On paper, Atlanta has a clear advantage here. They should be able to score points, though that has admittedly been their achilles heel all year. That said, this is one of the weakest overall defenses they’ve faced this year, so they’ll get the nod with a skeptical eye watching.