After two straight beat downs at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons (-1) head south to take on a Jacksonville Jaguars (+1) team that is one of the worst in the league and headed for another top 5 pick in the draft. While no one is betting on the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, they are still technically in the playoff hunt.
For the first time in a while, the last Falcons loss was almost solely on the offense as the Atlanta defense held the Patriots to just 19 offensive points and were particularly effective at limiting their red zone opportunities to field goals. Second year cornerback A.J. Terrell got his first interception of the year and the worst pass rushing team in the league got to Mac Jones three times in that game. Getting Dante Fowler back has helped, but the team is more effective at their blitzes and bringing guys from all over.
The Atlanta run defense has not been good this year, but it’s improved in recent weeks with guys like Anthony Rush and Mike Pennel adding beef to the defensive front. They’ll need it against a very good running back in James Robinson, who is averaging a healthy 5.1 yards per carry and has 7 touchdowns on the year. The defense will probably also focus on rattling rookie QB Trevor Lawrence, who has 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in his first year. If he does have time to pass, he’ll likely target one of Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault or Dan Arnold.
The Falcons offense will be facing a Jaguars defense that is 25th in points allowed, 28th in sacks, 32nd in takeaways but also 3rd against the run - allowing just 3.9 yards per carry. If this Atlanta offense is going to get back on track, it will probably be through the air. Tight end Kyle Pitts will be a favorite target, as will Cordarelle Patterson, assuming he’s healthy enough to play. The mix of receivers sans Calvin Ridley could have a good day, since Jacksonville is allowing a passer rating of 103.5, which is good for 29th in the league.
Matt Ryan has a history of bouncing back from poor performances and this looks like the perfect opportunity for him to do so. The Jaguars have some promising pieces for the future, but this is not a team that is delivering right now. They’ve only scored 20 or more points 3 times this year, and their defense has given up 24 or more points 6 times this year. Despite the poor performances over the last two games, this is a good matchup for the Falcons and one they should use to get back on right footing.
The Falcons are slightly favored playing in Jacksonville as the DraftKings Sportbook has them winning by less than a field goal.
Score prediction: Falcons 28, Jaguars 20
Bold prediction: Matt Ryan gets back on track with a 300 yard effort and no interceptions.
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Falcons vs. Jaguars
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Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.