If the Falcons are going to have any hope in this game, the offense will have to be firing on all cylinders on Sunday. Dirk Koetter has to call his best game ever and every player needs to be flawless. Can they do it? Let’s see how the matchup looks on paper.
In the trenches
Right now, the Falcons two biggest weaknesses are at left guard and right tackle. James Carpenter was not playing well prior to his injuries but Justin McCray is no improvement. Matt Gono has been hot and cold in relief of Kaleb McGary who has similarly been inconsistent on the right side. Thankfully, the remaining three guys - Jake Matthews, Alex Mack and Chris Lindstrom - are all playing well, with Lindstrom really turning in a strong sophomore season.
For the Chiefs, Chris Jones is a dominant interior pass rusher with 7 sacks on the season. Frank Clark has 5 sacks for the team on the season and interior defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi is their best run stopper. The remaining guys aren’t anything to be terribly worried about.
Believe it or not, Atlanta has more sacks on the year than the Chiefs do (28 vs 25). If one of McCray or McGary/Gono can step up their play, Atlanta should be able to nudge out a victory in this matchup. That’s a big if, however.
The skill positions
Matt Ryan’s season has been erratic, but he was quite good in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay. His accuracy and poise seemed far better than in previous weeks. His leading weapon, Calvin Ridley, demonstrated he can periodically be nearly as unstoppable as the currently sidelined Julio Jones. Russell Gage isn’t quite a WR2, but he’s a quality 3rd receiver. The team will be turning to Ito Smith for the running game, since Todd Gurley and Brian Hill have been disappointing. Hayden Hurst has yet to justify that 2nd round pick the team traded to get him.
The Chiefs have some gaps. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is solid on the back end but fellow safety Daniel Sorensen is a liability. Linebackers Ben Niemann and Willie Gay Jr. compose a sub-par unit in the middle. The cornerback rotation of Charvarius Ward, rookie L’Jarius Sneed and Bashaud Breeland are actually a decent trio, though not a dominant set.
If Julio were playing, this one would be easy. However, the inconsistency of guys past Ridley and Gage makes this one an intriguing matchup. These corners are decent enough but Calvin has a way of making good corners look bad. The question is whether anyone else on this offense is going to step up.
As usual, Dirk Koetter and his play-calling and player utilization cast a cloud over the success of this unit. This is not an incredible Chiefs defense and they can be scored on if you’re firing on all cylinders. With Dirk at the helm, that is such a toss-up.