The Atlanta Falcons started the season 0-2 after blowout losses to the Eagles and Bucs. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling after a similarly abysmal start to the 2020 season. Hopefully, Atlanta can get back on track on the road in Week 3. A theoretically winnable game against the New York Giants—who are also 0-2—awaits on Sunday, which would be the easiest opponent the team has faced thus far.
For a better idea of how these two teams stack up statistically on offense and defense, check out my stats preview for Week 3 right here. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key matchups in this game, as both teams are ailing with some key injuries.
Falcons OL vs Giants DL
The Falcons offensive line made some small improvements in Week 2, allowing the offense to find some level of competence in both the pass and run game. That’s encouraging, seeing as Atlanta was facing a Tampa Bay front that is among the best in the league. However, the unit is still an issue overall, and another stiff test is coming in Week 3 against the Giants.
The Falcons interior will once again face several high-level DTs in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, which should be quite the challenge for Jalen Mayfield and Matt Hennessy. Luckily, Chris Lindstrom has continued to play at a high level and Atlanta’s tackles will have far easier matchups in this one. New York’s defense is the easiest matchup the Falcons have faced yet, but none of that will matter if the offensive line can’t keep Ryan upright.
Falcons RBs vs Giants LBs
The inside linebacker position has long been an issue for the Giants, although the unit has been about league-average through the first two games of the season with Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, and Reggie Ragland. Even with their fearsome defensive interior, however, the Giants have been bad against the run early in the season. New York is allowing 126 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry.
The Falcons had a strong day on the ground against the Eagles in Week 1, but predictably struggled against Tampa Bay’s defense. Week 3 could present another good opportunity for Arthur Smith’s offense to flex it’s muscles in the running game. With Russell Gage out, it’s entirely possible we see RB Wayne Gallman activated for the first time. An emphasis on the ground game to keep the pressure off Matt Ryan and keep the chains moving could make a lot of sense for the Falcons.
Falcons pass rush vs Giants OL
The Falcons pass rush wasn’t expected to be much of a difference-maker for the defense in 2021, but through two games—against two elite OLs—they’ve been, OK? Atlanta is currently T-20th in sack percentage, which is merely below average. In Week 3, they’ll be facing a Giants offensive line that is seriously ailing and was giving up a ton of pressure and sacks even when healthy.
New York is currently down starting center Nick Gates and staring left guard Shane Lemieux. In their place are first-round bust Billy Price, who’s PFF grade rivals Jalen Mayfield’s at 28.1, and Ben Bredeson. The Falcons have a real opportunity to get consistent pressure on QB Daniel Jones on Sunday, though they’ll need to be cautious about sending too many players on a blitz. While Jones isn’t on the level of Jalen Hurts, he’s still dangerous when escaping the pocket.
Falcons CBs vs Giants WRs
The Falcons are in a difficult spot against the Giants, with starting CB1 A.J. Terrell declared out of the game with a concussion. Atlanta’s secondary has been OK through the first two weeks of the 2021 season—certainly a lot better than the league-worst unit of 2020—but how good can we realistically expect the secondary to be without their star player? Filling in will be safety-convert T.J. Green, who had his ups-and-downs in the preseason.
This is a tough matchup to be without Terrell, as the Giants feature a receiving corps loaded with weapons. Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Kenny Golladay are all dangerous receivers—although Golladay is questionable to play after being limited in practice all week. How well Green, CB2 Fabian Moreau, and slot defender Isaiah Oliver hold up will be absolutely key in limiting the Giants’ passing attack on Sunday.
What are some matchups you’ll be watching when the Falcons take on the Giants on Sunday?