Today’s matchup is one that feels winnable, something I would not necessarily have anticipated ahead of the season. Down Myles Garrett, Cleveland has a good but not great defense Atlanta figures to be able to attack. The Browns offense is more intimidating, but hey, the Falcons at their best and/or luckiest may be able to get some timely turnovers and put this one within reach.
If you’re like me, you’ve been doing the “they can win” and “man, what if things go disastrously wrong” all week. Here’s one reason I’m feeling confident today, and one reason I’m concerned.
Feel confident Atlanta will score points
It’s nice to feel confident about this, given that in each of the past few seasons it was in doubt for long stretches. Atlanta’s now rattled off nearly 30 points in three straight games, and they’ll have the advantage of going against an injury-diminished Browns defense.
The Falcons offense looks like it’s on the cusp of becoming something terrific, and while the possibility of a limited or absent Cordarrelle Patterson would hurt the effort, Atlanta’s shown they can cobble together 25-plus points against good defenses and against so-so defenses, by scoring consistently or scoring in concentrated bursts, and with or without a dominant ground game. With the weaknesses and attrition Cleveland has on that side of the ball, Atlanta should be in good shape to put up 20-plus points and keep themselves in this game.
Worry about the Browns ground game. How could you not?
I’ll keep this brief, because others have talked about it at length and far better than I will. The Falcons need to fear that the Browns will simply run over, around, and through their shaky defense, setting up an efficient and mistake-averse passing game and allowing Cleveland to outpace Atlanta’s offense.
It’s hard to see a way, outside of Aaron Freeman’s wise suggestion that the Falcons simply go out there and build up the kind of lead that discourages rushing, that Atlanta effectively slows down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns have gotten the job done against better defenses, those two backs are running behind a capable line, and the Falcons haven’t shown they can consistently slow opposing ground games that are significantly less potent than Cleveland’s. This is the one that’s been making me grind my teeth this week.
What are you feeling confident about, and what’s concerning you as we near kickoff?