The Atlanta Falcons are in the middle of their toughest stretch of the season. Following a very disappointing performance overall against division rival New Orleans Saints, they now face a surprising team in the Las Vegas Raiders in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Led by Head Coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders certainly have the ability run up the score on teams, and against the Falcons defense, it will likely be more of the same.
As a result, these are the players to watch today if the Falcons will have any shot at besting the Raiders.
The Falcons had many reasons for their horrible offensive outing last week, and Ryan was certainly one of them. Play calling was atrocious, but Ryan’s decision making and overall play was not up to par or his usual standards. There were multiple times where he either held the ball too long or made improper reads on plays.
Let’s be honest, Ryan is good for 2-3 bad games a season, as are many quarterbacks. However, if the Falcons are to be competitive against the Raiders, he will have to have a bounce back performance. The good news is, he doesn’t often play poorly in back to back games, and he’s got a much easier matchup this time out.
The RB corps
Todd Gurley II has officially been ruled out today. As a result, Brian Hill will likely get the bulk of the carries, with Ito Smith being a change of pace. Now, given that all running backs on the Falcons roster have been grossly misused by Koetter, it’s really difficult to say if any of the running backs will make much of an impact.
I truly can’t wrap my head around why Smith hasn’t been used as often as he should be, well, other than the fact that Koetter has no idea on how to utilize him as a capable pass catching back. I fully expect Koetter to air it out again, but if the Falcons are to be competitive, the RB corps will have to get an adequate amount of touches and be effective, something that has not happened enough recently.
Dante Fowler, Jr.
The Falcons pass rush so far this season has mostly revolved around Grady Jarrett and aggressive blitz packages. That’s really not a good sign considering the money that was spent to bring Dante Fowler, Jr. into the fray as an EDGE rusher, a role he has not been elite in thus far. Now off the COVID-19 reserve list, Fowler is battling a hamstring injury and is questionable to play today. Given that Fowler was paid to be a defensive impact player, it’s certainly time that he starts making an impact as more than a capable run defender. Coach Raheem Morris may decide to ultimately hold him out if he isn’t 100%, but if available to play against a QB like Derek Carr, he will have to make a positive impact if the Falcons are to have any sort of chance against the Raiders.
The Falcons performance last week coming out of the bye was simply inexcusable, and it was easily their worst performance under Coach Morris. An interesting thing to see today is how they bounce back from that sort of performance. The Raiders, although better than they have been in the past few years, are certainly beatable and are trap game candidates against the Falcons today. However, considering how hobbled the Falcons are, especially on offense, this game could certainly turn out the way their division game did last week.