The Falcons play the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, a game where Atlanta is a sizable underdog. Interim head coach Raheem Morris needs plenty of things to go right on the road against a surging Jon Gruden offense, especially in light of the deflating loss to the Saints in a season full of deflating losses.
Morris is getting no luck with injuries taking ahold of Atlanta’s top player. Julio’s balky hamstring is expected to keep him out of Sunday’s game, per NFL’s Ian Rapoport.
#Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is not expected to play today vs. the #Raiders, source said. Jones was not able to practice on Friday after being limited earlier in the week. Meanwhile, TE Hayden Hurst (ankle) should be good to go.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 29, 2020
As Mr. Falcoholic himself wrote earlier this week after Sunday’s offensive debacle, Dirk Koetter’s offense has historically taken a massive step backwards without Julio in the lineup. That should not surprise anyone who saw Sunday’s game and wondered aloud, “Who is Christian Blake and why is he getting so many targets? And where did Hayden Hurst go?”
Koetter has struggled to adjust when missing top players, making some perplexing decisions on who to rely upon in those players’ absence. Somewhat problematic is that Todd Gurley will join Julio on the list of inactives, however, his backup Brian Hill has clearly been the better back albeit in a more limited role. Hill has a sizable lead in both yards per carry and yards per catch, another unsurprising statistic considering the easy-to-see difference in explosion and foot speed between both players.
For the Falcons, this game is almost certainly not expected to be competitive with or without Julio and Atlanta has only a highly unlikely chance at making the playoffs if the NFL expands the playoffs due to COVID-19 game cancellations. The more wear and tear the team can keep off of their top player the better.