The Falcons square off against the Lions tonight, and we’re all looking forward to seeing what happens. The trickier thing is predicting what will happen.
Because the actual score of the game is less important than what happens, we’re not going to deliver our typical pre-game score predictions. Instead, we’ll each deliver at least one thing we predict will happen in the game ahead, some more optimistic than others. Please do share yours in the comments, as well.
Tyler Allgeier shines, Arnold Ebiketie gets a sack, and the Falcons’ offensive line makes us nervous
I thought I’d be more bullish on Allgeier’s stock in 2022 than others, but he’s already a popular fantasy pick and someone more than a few observers are predicting to be a major force in the Falcons backfield. I think we’ll see our first signs of a quality campaign in this one, with Allgeier playing well against Lions reserves.
I also think Ebiketie, who has a legitimate shot to lead the team in sacks this season, will pop off with a sack in his very first NFL action. That’s not necessarily going to herald a rookie season with double digit sacks—let’s not be thirsty people in the desert rejecting a cup of water because we’d prefer a jug of iced tea—but I think the glimpses of his future greatness are going to come early and often.
Finally, and less optimistically, I think the line is going to struggle against Detroit, both starters and backups. That may be an isolated effort, but it doesn’t feel like the team has quite settled on its line configuration yet, and I still expect this group to be one of this roster’s biggest weaknesses in 2022, unfortunately. —Dave Choate
Desmond Ridder plays the most snaps of any QB, and puts forth an encouraging performance
I sincerely doubt we’ll get to see the starters for more than a series during Friday’s preseason opener against the Lions—though Dan Campbell has said he plans to play his for the first quarter, so that could shake things up. What we will get is an extended look at the second and third team units, and potentially a lot of snaps from the starting offensive line. That means the starting quarterback for the vast majority of the game should be rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder.
The preseason offers an ideal time for Ridder to get a large amount of snaps to help acclimate him to the offense and the speed of the NFL game. Obviously, there’s nothing quite like games that matter, but it’s as close as you can get. With Ridder slated to be the backup entering the season, Atlanta doesn’t need to worry as about keeping him healthy and fresh for Week 1. The best thing for Ridder right now is to get as much on-field work as he can.
It’ll help if the offensive line and weapons are up to the task. For the record, I think he’ll have some quality targets to work with in the passing game. The quality of the line in front of him is a much bigger question mark, but hopefully will be able to at least hold their own against reserves. But I think the next few weeks offer a great opportunity for Ridder to prove himself as capable of stepping in and running the offense in 2022. I’m not expecting a lights-out performance from the rookie on Friday, but I think we’ll be encouraged by what we see. —Kevin Knight
Get ready for some ugly football
The Falcons are in a tough spot. Year 2 of the Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot regime is almost certain to be highlighted by painful turnover of multiple top players (Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Foye Oluokun, Russell Gage). It would be impressive for any team to overcome those losses in a single offseason, especially in one with such imposing cap constraints. To that point, the Falcons have only had a few weeks of camp with a number of new players at important positions. There won’t be much chemistry or extensive knowledge of the playbook you would expect from a veteran team.
Some players will look good but a lot more will look bad. However, that shouldn’t be an indication to what this team will look like come the regular season. One preseason game is too early to be making snap judgments. I say that to also say I really want to see what the combo of Mariota, Allgeier, Patterson, London and Pitts looks like. - Matt Chambers