Josh Allen is a rare quarterback. His physical tools and promise got him drafted seventh overall back in 2018, but the fear was that he would be like many quarterbacks who came before him who had shaky completion percentages in college and weren’t able to succeed in the NFL.
Allen hasn’t just succeeded, though, he’s become one of the NFL’s more dangerous quarterbacks. This year, he’s third in the NFL in touchdown passes, seventh in passing yards, and second in percentage of dropbacks sacked, which all tells you how effectively he operates as a passer. He’s also 29th in the entire NFL in rushing yards, behind only Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson at the quarterback position, and has cashed in another four scores with his legs. Allen is, to put it mildly, a headache for defenses, and that’s doubly so because the Bills have surrounded him with terrific playmakers like Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox. The Bills, by some measures, have the best offense in the NFL as a result.
Unsurprisingly, my biggest question this week is a simple one: How are the Falcons going to stop Josh Allen?
It might be instructive to look at the one time Allen played really crummy football that was not impacted by an on-field blizzard, as the Falcons may not be able to conjure one of those up the way Bill Belichick did. That would be the stunning 9-6 upset of Allen’s Bills by the lowly Jaguars, a team that you may recall the Falcons beating not all that long ago. That win was easily the most impressive thing Jacksonville did under Urban Meyer, and as this writeup from USA Today’s Touchdown Wire illustrates, the Jaguars did it by blitzing, bringing a ton of pressure on the interior and playing a lot of man coverage successfully. Big Cat Country’s JP Acosta had an excellent article covering how the Jaguars took away the vertical passing game that caters to Allen’s arm and their willingness to let Shaq Griffin follow Stefon Diggs around and take away Buffalo’s most dangerous target.
The takeaways from that should be pretty apparent for the Falcons, who would do well to try to get A.J. Terrell matched up against Diggs as often as possible and be aggressive about trying to crank up pressure on Allen. That’s a big ask—other teams have not been able to replicate Jacksonville’s success, and the Falcons have the worst pass rush in the league— but sowing confusion and send blitzers from unexpected spots and at unexpected times could create enough havoc to force Allen into a couple of ugly mistakes.
Atlanta’s unlikely to be able to simply outgun the Bills, given how good their offense is, so the defense will once again be asked to deliver to the greatest extent possible. If they can be opportunistic and stall a couple of drives and pick up a couple of turnovers, they’ll have a shot of hanging on in this one and pulling off one of those last second wins that have become their 2021 bread and butter. If they don’t at least slow Allen, it’s going to be a very long Sunday.