For a moment, the Atlanta Falcons were able to trade punches with arguably the best team in the league last week. Closing the gap to three points late in the third quarter, it seemed for a small amount of time that the Falcons were going to pull off the upset. But alas, the entity of football had different plans and as a result the Falcons are now 0-2.
They are back on the road to face the New York Giants in Week 3 as they look to avoid digging a bigger hole on the season. A few confident factors were able to be taken from their Week 2 matchup with division foe Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But can the Falcons apply those factors in a very winnable game against the Giants? Here is the Week 3 preview.
Game: Falcons vs. Giants
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Time and television: Sept 26th, 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX
Key in-game matchup: Falcons run defense vs. Giants run defense
Yes, I am fully aware that both components are not on the field simultaneously. However, one item that stands out in this contest are a pair of run offenses that are looking at this matchup to get their respective run games on the right track. On one side, the Giants are in possession of a talent such as Saquon Barkley, who is gradually coming off a torn ACL last season. So far, Barkley has recorded just 23 carries in two games but you get the sense that his carry volume will increase very soon. The same can be said for a Falcons offense that has a scheme predicated around the run game. So far, the Falcons rank 21st in yards per carry and 25th in total rushing first downs. The task at hand for the run defenses will be to make sure the opposing offense does not elevate that element and allow it to play complimentary football to their passing game.
One key player to watch: Jalen Mayfield
As if the kid has not had enough spotlight on him already over the first two games of the season. So far on the year, Mayfield has seen some excellent defensive tackle play from the likes of Fletcher Cox to Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. The rookie won’t catch much of a break against the Giants with Leonard Willams and Dexter Lawrence lined up across from him. We saw improvement from Mayfield in terms of pass blocking from one game to another and the Falcons will need to see glimpse of progression on a weekly basis for this Falcons offensive line to reach it’s potential.
How can the Falcons win: Aggressiveness across the board
We witnessed some of this aspect last week against the Buccaneers. Although it did not equate to the victory, the Falcons showed some life and threw a few haymakers against the defending champs. While the Giants will not be mistaken for the Bucs, the Falcons should not approach this as if it is an inferior opponent in front of them. If that means rolling the dice a few times on fourth and short, then so be it. If that means dialing up another blitz to get after Jones and get the Giants offense off the field, then so be it. Many of the Falcons fan base expect a team to at least compete and not play themselves out of a possible winning position. If they were able to show such attitude last week against Tampa Bay, that fight should manifest once again this week. Only this time around, sealing the deal will make all the difference.