Not many things have been a bright spot this season for the Atlanta Falcons. A season filled with promise and playoff expectations has instead seen a barrage of blown leads, heartbreaking losses, and saddening memes and GIFs. On top of that, the team made the move to close the book on Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff during the season. What has been a positive for the team so far is interim head coach Raheem Morris. After a tough road win against the Carolina Panthers in week eight, the Falcons now return home and will face a Denver Broncos team that is still somewhat in the Wild Card playoff picture. Let’s breakdown the matchup.
About their opponent
The Broncos are fresh off an emotional comeback victory against the Los Angeles Chargers in a contest that saw the Broncos take a 24-3 deficit halfway through the third quarter. Quarterback Drew Lock led the comeback with three fourth quarter touchdowns. Lock’s play has been a little streaky this season but he also only has 10 career starts. In the last three weeks, the banged up Broncos defense has had a nose for the football, forcing six turnovers after only posting two takeaways in their first four games combined.
Falcons red zone offense vs. Broncos red zone defense - Going back to the Falcons last matchup against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons recorded six drives that concluded in the red zone but only scored two touchdowns. For the season, the Falcons are 27th in the NFL in red zone offense despite having the leading passer in the league, two receivers that are in the top-11 in receiving yards, and a running back that is tied for second in the league in rushing touchdowns.
The Broncos defense has been very stout in this department as a unit that is ranked third overall in red zone touchdown defense. It will be a tough task for the Falcons offense to be efficient in this aspect, but more is expected from a very talented unit.
Falcons passing defense vs. Broncos QB Drew Lock - As mentioned earlier, Lock has been fairly inconsistent this season, but I am a writer who truly believes in his ability. Just look back at that fourth quarter against the Chargers and he was clearly the best player on the field that quarter. The potential is there. But the Falcons passing defense has to make sure that he does not find a comfort zone.
The Falcons are 31st in the league in passing defense and 31st in yards per pass allowed. However, under Morris, they have played in this element. Largely because of the increase in blitzes from the defense in recent weeks. When Lock has not been on his game, it has been ugly. While he is young and still developing, the Falcons must keep Lock rattled and not attack what has been a liability for Atlanta.
With the focus on the Broncos offense, when it has been stagnant, it has been brutal to watch. In four games this season, the Broncos offense failed to total even 330 yards, compared to just one game for the Falcons. In total DVOA, the Broncos rank 31st, topping only the Washington Football Team and the New York Jets. In passing offense efficiency, the Broncos rank 29th. A lot of it coincides with the offensive injuries the team has seen this season. It is an offense that has talent but has not gained their offensive footing by any means this season. With an often porous Falcons defense, the Broncos are surely looking to get their offensive execution in line.
Once again, here we are. Another winnable game on the slate for the Falcons. A point of view that the Falcons have seen quite a few times this season. However, a 2-6 record speaks volumes on who the Falcons are right now. Not having their top pass rushers in this contest is going to be tough to chew on. Can this defense muster up enough plays to allow their offense to put the pressure on the Broncos? A huge question that needs to be answered soundly by the Falcons defensive unit.
But just like against then-San Diego in 2016, Buffalo and Miami in 2017, Cincinnati in 2018, and Tennessee in 2019, the Falcons have somewhat built a trend to play below average at home against AFC opponents. A mini bye week may help the Falcons prepare for this matchup or it may cause the team to embrace that dreaded slow start that they have shown issues to recover from. We’ll get to see just how truly prepared this team will be under the guidance of Morris, who has looked solid as of late.