After getting walloped by the Cowboys on Sunday, the Falcons return home to play a Thursday night game against a surging Patriots team that just beat the pants off the Cleveland Browns. Mac Jones is running away with rookie of the year honors and after winning 4 straight, they’re now just a half game out of first place in the AFC East behind the Bills.
Can the Atlanta defense even hope to stop them? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
If you were to ask me to point out which unit in the Falcons defense was the most problematic, I’d have to point to the trenches. Outside of Grady Jarrett, there’s no one left to brag about. Sure, Dante Fowler has the talent to contribute, but he was mostly a non-factor against Dallas and is not guaranteed to take off against New England. James Vaughters has looked okay and rookie Ade Ogundeji is growing on the job. That’s about it.
Can this defensive line get to any QB in the league? Sure! If you put Vinny Testaverde behind five cardboard cutouts of bad offensive linemen wearing cement shoes, I’d have some faith. Otherwise, there’s no way I’m betting on one of the worst defensive fronts in football.
As for the Patriots, they may have the best offensive line in football right now. Mac Jones has been sacked 19 times so far, but many of those happened early on in the season. From David Andrews at center to Isaiah Wynn on the blindside, this line doesn’t really have a weak link.
My write-ups are normally longer, but this one is just not close. Patriots dominate this matchup.
The skill positions
At least A.J. Terrell has emerged as a top corner, right? He allowed 2 receptions on 3 targets for all of 19 yards against a very talented Cowboys receiving corps. Unfortunately, he is about all that’s positive on the back-end of this defense. The safeties are okay for stretches, but get exposed by a non-existent pass rush. Avery Williams is not ready to be on the field as a starting corner, though he might have more luck facing anyone but CeeDee Lamb. Fabian Moreau has actually been better lately, but he’s getting targeted frequently due to Terrell’s success. Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun have not played anywhere near their capabilities and may be two of the more disappointing players on the defense thus far, especially in coverage.
Unless things go sideways from here on out, Mac Jones will almost certainly be rookie of the year. He’s completing 69% of his passes, has 2,333 yards with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His receiving corps - Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers - have been a productive trio. Hunter Henry is having a solid year and the running back trio of Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden is one of the deepest and most productive in the league. Everything is working for the Patriots right now. Everything.
Yeah, this isn’t close either.
Do the Falcons have any hope? Well, any given Sunday and all that jazz. Until we can find a way to clone Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell, this Atlanta defense is too shaky to believe in. I will be in complete shock if they hold the Patriots under 30 points, and if they do, they might just have a chance.