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What to know for Falcons vs. Jets in Week 5

Atlanta will try to right the ship in London, but the Jets are coming off their best effort of the season.

New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Early on Sunday morning, we’re all going to stumble out of bed and watch the Atlanta Falcons play. They’ll be taking the field in London, squaring off against a New York Jets team trying to earn as many wins as they had all of last season by Week 5.

It goes without saying that the Falcons should be expected to win this one, but whether they will depends on whether we get an improved version of this team, a crummy version of this Jets team, or both. Add in the travel and the weirdness of this season and I’m honestly not sure what we’ll get Sunday.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a hard look at the matchup ahead, however. As is our custom, we’ll do that right now.

2021 comparison

There’s a lot of fun 20s and 30s in here!

Falcons vs. Jets

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Falcons 1-3 25 24 20 25 32 23 21 18 25 9
Jets 1-3 32 29 28 29 14 13 12 22 25 31

I said this before the Giants game and I’ll repeat it here: Both of these teams are bad. The Jets were absolutely atrocious through the first three weeks of the season before turning on the jets a bit last Sunday, while the Falcons have mixed two ugly losses with a pair of respectable-ish efforts. Neither team is going to be confused with a contender based on their current play.

The Falcons have the better offense, as low of a bar as that is to clear given that the Jets have scored fewer points than any other team in the league. New York has young talent that I genuinely like, from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to running back Michael Carter to receiver Elijah Moore, but they’re growing on the job and the results have been profoundly uneven thus far. Atlanta might actually break their streak of interception-less games with Wilson, who has thrown an average of two picks per game, going against them. Wilson is coming off the finest game of his career in a 297 yard, 2 touchdown effort against the Titans, so if that’s not a blip it’s likely to be a long Sunday for Atlanta’s depleted defense.

Defensively, the Jets are going to be the latest in a series of problems for Atlanta. New York has 13.5 sacks on the young season, led by Quinnen Williams and his soon-to-be favorable matchup against the interior of this Falcons offensive line. Atlanta just held up pretty well in pass protection against a terrific Washington defensive line, but the sledding isn’t significantly easier here with an active front coached by ex-Falcons interim defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. The Jets secondary is at least solid, but like Atlanta, they have zero interceptions on the young season. On even a halfway sluggish day from the Falcons, the Jets are more than capable of holding this team under 20 points.

The blueprint for a Falcons win is obvious: Keep Matt Ryan protected, keep building on last week’s effort and actually cause some turnovers with Zach Wilson more than willing to give a few up. It’s just that it’s always easier said than done.

How the Jets have changed in 2021

There’s a new head coach in town, first and foremost. Robert Saleh brings a reputation as a smart, disciplined defensive head coach from his time in San Francisco, where he presided over four years of mostly terrific play with the 49ers. The Jets are hoping he’s the right fit to finally turn around a moribund franchise, and at the very least he seems like the right guy to take this team to London and get the most out of them, considering he was there three times previously while he worked for the Jaguars.

The other big addition is Wilson. The second quarterback taken after Trevor Lawrence and right ahead of Trey Lance, Wilson is an athletic and strong-armed passer who spent his college career doing whatever he pleased. In New York, he becomes the latest in a long line of passers who is being asked to carry the enormous weight of the Jets franchise on his shoulders, and hopes to become first to succeed with that weight in a long, long time.

To help him out, the Jets tried to add both veteran talent and young talent. Guard Alijah Vera-Tucker joined in the draft to help stabilize the Jets offensive line, which also added versatile interior lineman Dan Feeney. Receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter were brought on during the draft to provide Wilson with long-term weapons, while receiver Corey Davis joined up to be (and has been) his top target.

On defense, Saleh and company added more talent in free agency, bringing aboard pass rusher Shaq Lawson, safety LaMarcus Joyner (who is on injured reserve, unfortunately) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. The defensive front already had some real talent and is even better now with those additions, and even with injuries, the defense will be the side of the ball this team leans on to carry them through the offense’s growing pains.

This was the latest in a series of resets for the Jets, the kind of cycle every bad team dreads finding themselves in. It’s too early to tell with Wilson, but certainly the arrow is pointing up in New York regardless.

What to know for Sunday

This is going to be a battle between two potentially fatigued teams having made a cross-Atlantic trip, neither of them particularly good in the first place. It’ll either be ugly and low-scoring or wonderfully bonkers and high-scoring, and I’d lean toward the former even if I hope for the latter.

Atlanta really would like this win, and not solely or even primarily because of any playoff implications in what’s shaping up to be a frustrating season. It’s more because of how soundly they beat themselves a week ago and how demoralizing that has to be for a team that looked like it was enjoying a little post-win swagger after knocking off the Giants. Washington made more than enough mistakes to take them themselves out of the game, but the Falcons somehow made even more, and going into the bye with injuries piling up and a 1-4 record that essentially puts them out of even the shadow of a dream of contending this year is an awful place to be in this early. That’s true no matter how much you believe in this team’s 2021 outlook.

The Jets will be an interesting opponent, one more akin to the Giants than Washington owing to their potentially tough defense and uneven offense. A good day from Zach Wilson and the defensive front could be a big problem for Atlanta, regardless of who they end up resembling, and considering New York is coming off their finest effort I do admit to some queasiness here. Whatever the long-term objectives and arc of this franchise, a win here in front of an entirely different set of fans in an entirely different part of the world would be nice, and Atlanta chaining together a few decent efforts feels like a good place to start for (what we hope is) the success to come.

Had the Jets not shown real signs of life against an admittedly beat up and struggling Titans team, I probably would be pedal to the floor predicting an Atlanta win. The combination of Isaiah Oliver being out and the defense reeling last week is giving me some pause, but this is still the most winnable game on the schedule until the Jaguars and Urban Meyer, assuming Meyer is around that long. Hopefully the Falcons can shake off some jet (ha) lag and take advantage of the matchup.