The dysfunctional Dirk dudes will take the field on Sunday minus a star receiver and possibly more against a tough pass rush. Though some Falcons fans are ready to move on from Matt Ryan right now, they may want to say a prayer for him as he will have little trade value if he’s dead. Let’s take a look at this super encouraging matchup.
In the trenches
In reality, the Falcons have some good pieces on the offensive line. Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom stand out as the two best players. If Kaleb McGary misses another game, at least Matt Gono played well in the loss against the Chargers. Alex Mack has not been his normal self, but he’s still playing well enough to not be alarmed by his play. Justin McCray is bad, but the guy he replaced - James Carpenter - is also bad and may return this week. This unit has had some ups and downs, but it’s not a complete disaster.
Unfortunately, they’re going up against some beasts. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett lead the team with 9.5 and 8 sacks respectively. Devin White and Ndamukong Suh both have 5 each and the team as a whole has 40 on the year. They barely miss Vita Vea in the middle with as much pressure as they’re generating from the rest of this unit. The Falcons will have a very tough matchup on their hands.
This may be one of the toughest matchups for the year and we’re about to do this dance two times in three weeks. Pray for Ryan.
The skill positions
Despite his terrible game on Sunday, PFF still has Matt Ryan with a good overall score and ranking 11th in the league. That said, Ryan is simply not having a good year by his standards and the game against the Chargers was one of his worst in a while. Not having Julio Jones certainly hurts, and will again on Sunday. Having Dirk Koetter as your OC is doing him no favors either. If Atlanta is going to bounce back, they need Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage to carry them, as it appears guys like Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley just aren’t going to be factors in this offense.
Lavonte David remains one of the best linebackers in the league. Other than him, though, this unit has some question marks. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting is a liability while Carlton Davis excels in stopping the run while being above average in coverage. Antoine Winfield is stout against the run but quite bad in coverage while 3rd year safety Jordan Whitehead is playing well overall. Linebacker Devin White may be the biggest liability of this defense though, ranking 77th out of 86 linebackers in the league by PFF scores.
If Matt Ryan gets time in the pocket, he should have some decent matchups here. Ridley outclasses these corners and Gage could be in for a big game as well. The question will be whether anyone else will step up. Since that doesn’t happen often, this doesn’t feel like a matchup either team will dominate.
This one is pretty simple. Keep Ryan upright and you’ll stand a chance. If you don’t, this game could get ugly. Given how Barrett and Pierre-Paul have harassed Matt in the past, don’t bank on an offensive showing on Sunday.