At this point in the season, you’re probably either worried about the Falcons every single week or numb to their unpleasant surprises. Either way, you’ve got a Falcons game against the Raiders coming right up.
This won’t be an easy matchup, to put it mildly, given that the Raiders just played the Chiefs to the hilt and are a well-rounded, winning football team. Here’s what I’m feeling confident about heading into Sunday—it’s really just the one thing, but I have a lot of confidence in it—and my biggest worry.
Feel confident Atlanta will sling it
I had been on a bit of a hot streak with these until I said the Falcons should have no problem passing against a Marshon Lattimore-less Saints team. Julio Jones’ injury and the team’s complete inability to slow the New Orleans pass rush ruined that one completely, so you might think I’d be wary about saying it this week.
I’m not, though. It was a bit out on a limb against a good New Orleans pass defense last week, but the Raiders are legitimately one of the worst pass defenses in the entire NFL. An inconsistent pass rush and a weak secondary have conspired to make them a burnable group, and opposing offenses have obliged by burning them repeatedly. Only four teams have allowed more passing yards in 2020, and while they’ve been stingier in the red zone (uh oh), they’re one of the most beatable groups left on the schedule.
I’d expect the Falcons to have their usual, deeply frustrating red zone performances in this one, but they should have no problem moving between the 20s and should have a good day overall. If they can’t get it done against Las Vegas, with or without Julio Jones, they should probably just pack it in for the 2020 season.
Worry about the Raiders passing attack
I don’t need to explain this one to you. The Falcons have an even worse pass defense than Las Vegas and are fresh off a game where Taysom Hill had a strong effort against them and they couldn’t make him pay for two of the worst-thrown deep balls you’ll see, so Derek Carr figures to tear them apart.
The key will be putting the brakes on tight end Darren Waller, one of the league’s best players at the position, and not letting the likes of Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor run wild on them. I don’t have any real hopes of the Falcons clamping down hard on the passing attack for the whole game—hence my worry—but I’d settle for something less than 400 yards and three touchdowns.