If you’re coming into this game with little faith in the Falcons offense, you’re not alone. Despite the 43 points they put up against the Raiders, the offense still was not impressive. Matt Ryan certainly looked better, but the team took a hit with injuries to James Carpenter and Olamide Zaccheus, even as Julio Jones was already out. Will they bounce back this week? Let’s see how the matchups look.
In the trenches
Here’s the thing: this Saints defensive front is terrifying. Cameron Jordan has been wrecking Falcons OLs for years and now they have Trey Hendrickson adding to the mix with his 9.5 sacks this year. Even guys like David Onyemata are adding to the mix. In fact, I’m pretty sure the water boy came off the bench two weeks ago to get one of the sacks of Matt Ryan.
Given that the Falcons OL gave up 8 sacks last time, you’re right to be worried. Kaleb McGary got beat like a drum and now James Carpenter is likely going to be out, meaning we will be turning to yet another left guard. It sounds like Matt Gono might get a shot, but don’t be surprised if Justin McCray is rolled out again. No matter who it is, it’s unlikely to result in a major upgrade.
They gave up 8 sacks last time they faced this defensive front. There’s no way we’re giving them any kind of hope two weeks later.
The skill positions
The Saints should have Marshon Lattimore back, but Janoris Jenkins - who has arguably been better this year - came out early against the Broncos and hasn’t practiced so far this week. The back half of this Saints defense isn’t as stacked as their defensive front, but they still have good talent overall. Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins round out a solid secondary over the top.
Atlanta needs Julio Jones back. Dirk Koetter simply doesn’t know how to call an offense without him on the field. With Olamide Zaccheus injured, the Falcons can’t afford to be missing 2 receivers in this game, especially since the running game has been terrible yet again. That said, Ito Smith deserves a longer look given his strong game against the Raiders. Matt Ryan can make this offense move, but only if he has decent time in the pocket.
Barring a major setback, expect Julio to play in this one. If Jenkins is out, the Falcons should have an even better matchup overall, though keeping Ryan upright remains a huge cloud over their success. As for this matchup, Atlanta gets a slight nod.
Right now this matchup feels like it could go either way. The one thing working against Atlanta is offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. I know we have spent a lot of time hammering him here at the site, but his inability to change plays up two weeks ago feels problematic. Given the Saints excellent pass rush, they’re going to get the nod.