The first instance of hate week for the 2021 season is upon us. The Falcons are coming off an ugly loss at home to the Panthers while the Saints just knocked off the Buccaneers. Yet, none of that will matter as this series tends to be close and hard fought no matter what the record of each team. Can the Atlanta offense get back on track on Sunday? Let’s see how things look.
In the trenches
The Falcons offensive line had been improving steadily until the Panthers game. Key guys like Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews struggled in that game, which makes it feel like more of an anomaly than a step backwards. That said, even before that game this was a unit that was still not particularly great, and Jalen Mayfield and Matt Hennessy are still having their adventures as they grow on the job. They were just giving Matt Ryan enough time to be effective. As long as Matthews and Lindstrom get back on track - and there’s no reason to think they can’t - this line should be acceptable. Should is the key word here.
Cam Jordan has terrorized the Falcons over the years. He only has 2 sacks so far this year, but he’s always a threat to get home. David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport can disrupt the passer as well even, if the sack totals don’t show it. The Saints have 16 sacks and their sack rate has them ranked 23rd. This is not the same pass rush the Panthers have, but this line is nearly impossible to run against. They’re the best in the league at shutting down the run.
The Falcons offensive line will probably not get the run going but protecting Matt Ryan should improve from last week. However, Cam Jordan always seems to come alive for these games, so Kaleb McGary needs to be at his best or this could go south very quickly. Fortunately, McGary has had his great efforts against Jordan in the past.
The skill positions
At this point, we know that as long as Matt Ryan has a decent pocket he can play at a high level still. He didn’t get that last week. The Panthers sold out to stop Kyle Pitts and the strategy worked without Calvin Ridley on the field. The Falcons will need a different game plan to get more out of guys like Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst if they’re going to have any success. Cordarrelle Patterson has done his job all year long, but he needs someone else to step up in this game as well.
The Saints have quality linebackers and safeties. Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams are a quality duo at safety. Kwon Alexander and Demario Davis are quality guys in the middle of the field. Corner is where they have some weaknesses. Marshon “Grabby Latty” Lattimore is playing better after a couple of years of finally being called for defensive pass interference consistently. Paulson Adebo and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are sub-par corners, but Adebo has managed a couple of interceptions in his rookie season.
Unfortunately, this matchup doesn’t play well for Atlanta. Their best weapons are a tight end and running back. Our receivers are not the kind that can take advantage of this matchup, at least on paper. Let’s hope Arthur Smith has a plan to flip this script.
Even if the Falcons offensive line performs better, the Falcons current weapons have a difficult matchup ahead of them. The threat of Cam Jordan going off also looms large. As it stands, things don’t look great for the Atlanta offense but rivalry games can go off script. Let’s hope it does.