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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 7

A quarterback decision in Tennessee and a resurgent Vikings squad highlight the road ahead for the Falcons

Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!

It was another down-to-the-wire game for Atlanta, but the Falcons emerged with a crucial division road win and now have a chance to build upon their success in the coming weeks. Despite Ridder’s three fumbles, the Falcons took another step forward offensively and proved their defense can travel.

There are no easy games in the NFL, but Atlanta’s next three games come against Tennessee, Minnesota and Arizona. If the Falcons can reign in their mistakes—easy to say, right—those are winnable games. We’ll get a better idea of all three down below.

A brief refresher for those who may be reading this piece for the first time: This exercise is meant to provide a quick synopsis of how each team did the previous week. I’ll highlight a standout player from each side of the ball, and for the two teams next on Atlanta’s schedule, I’ll include a potential x-factor player for the upcoming matchup.

Here’s how the Falcons’ remaining opponents looked in Week 7.

Week 8 – at Tennessee Titans (2-4)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Loss at Indianapolis (16-23)

- Week 6: Loss vs Ravens (24-16)

- Week 7: Bye

Tweet-length summary of Titans in Week 7:

Best offensive player in Week 6: RB Derrick Henry

This was a classic King Henry game, and the Titans are going to need more of those moving forward—although rumors have begun to swirl about potential trades. He carried the ball 12 times for 97 yards, including a 63-yard run out of the Wildcat formation.

Best defensive player in Week 6: LB Azeez Al-Shaair

Al-Shaair tied for the league lead with 15 tackles in Week 6, which was the second consecutive week he’s reached that total. He played all 71 snaps for Tennessee’s defense on Sunday and was especially effective when defending inside the red zone.

X-factor for Titans in Week 8: QB Will Levis

Levis will reportedly be the Titans’ starter on Sunday, and his performance will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game. The second-round draft pick was underwhelming in the preseason, going 9-of-14 for 85 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, and dealt with a lingering injury that held him out of action. The Titans may also use Malik Willis, who completed four of his five pass attempts for 74 yards in relief of Ryan Tannehill in Week 6.

Team stat to know: Tennessee has the league’s third-best red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown just 30.4 percent of the time.

Week 9 – vs Minnesota Vikings (3-4)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Loss vs Kansas City (27-20)

- Week 6: Win at Chicago (19-13)

- Week 7: Win vs San Francisco (22-17)

Tweet-length summary of Vikings in Week 7:

Kirk Cousins and Jordan Addison just carved up one of the best defenses in the league, proving Minnesota’s passing game is still very dangerous even without Justin Jefferson. This team finds ways to keep every game close, and they are starting to gain momentum.

Best offensive player in Week 7: WR Jordan Addison

The rookie receiver was sensational as Minnesota’s top wideout on Monday night. He caught seven passes for 123 yards, including touchdown passes of 20 and 60 yards. Addison has six touchdown receptions this season, which is one shy of Tyreek Hill’s league-high seven.

Best defensive player in Week 7: S Cam Bynum

Bynum was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a stellar performance against the 49ers. He ended San Francisco’s attempts at any late-game magic with two athletic interceptions. Bynum was also the team’s leading tackler, finishing with nine tackles.

X-factor for Vikings in Week 9: DE Danielle Hunter

The NFL’s sack leader, Hunter has taken down the quarterback in six of Minnesota’s seven games this season. Hunter has nine sacks on the year, including four over the last three weeks. He has the length and athleticism to threaten any tackle.

Team stat to know: Minnesota averages 280 passing yards per game, which ranks third among NFL offenses.

Week 10 – at Arizona Cardinals (1-6)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Loss vs Cincinnati (34-20)

- Week 6: Loss at Los Angeles Rams (26-9)

- Week 7: Loss at Seattle (20-10)

Tweet-length summary of Cardinals in Week 7:

The Cardinals have played hard this season, but it feels like they are going to fold sooner rather than later. Give them credit, though, they’ve been in a lot of games this year against way better teams.

Best offensive player in Week 7: QB Josh Dobbs

There’s really nobody worthy of earning the title of “best” on this offense for Sunday’s performance, but Dobbs did score the Cardinals’ lone touchdown on a 25-yard run. He finished the game 19-of-33 for 146 yards.

Best defensive player in Week 7: LB Zaven Collins

This was quite possibly the best game of Collins’s career as a pass rusher. He earned five total pressures against Geno Smith, including his fourth sack of the season. Collins has really been coming on strong of late.

Team stat to know: Arizona’s defense allows the second-most first downs per game to opposing offenses.

Weeks 12 & 18 – New Orleans Saints (3-4)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Win at New England (34-0)

- Week 6: Loss at Houston (20-13)

- Week 7: Loss vs Jacksonville (31-24)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 7:

Best offensive player in Week 7: RB Alvin Kamara

The Saints’ long-time running back has picked up right where he left off after serving a suspension to start the season. Although he failed to reach the end zone on Thursday night, Kamara led all players in the game with 153 total yards on 29 touches.

Best defensive player in Week 7: CB Paulson Adebo

The third-year cornerback had his best game of the season for the Saints on Thursday. He not only led the team with seven tackles—not typically what you see from a corner—and he allowed just three completions while breaking up another pass thrown into his coverage.

Team stat to know: The Saints’ success rate on passing plays is 40.7 percent, which ranks 25th.

Week 13 – at New York Jets (3-3)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Win at Denver (31-21)

- Week 6: Win vs Philadelphia (20-14)

- Week 7: Bye

Tweet-length summary of Jets in Week 7:

Best offensive player in Week 6: WR Garrett Wilson

When Wilson does finally get paired with a quarterback who lifts his receivers up instead of drags them down, he could ascend to top status fairly quickly. He’s that good, but we already knew that. He still offers us reminders, though, like on Sunday afternoon when he caught eight passes for 90 yards.

Best defensive player in Week 6: LB Quincy Williams

The other Williams on New York’s defense has been playing at a pretty high level in his third season with the Jets. He’s the team’s leading tackler on the year and put together another great performance against Philadelphia with 12 tackles. He was targeted often in coverage but held up fairly well, although he did allow a touchdown.

Team stat to know: New York’s offense is last in the league with a 36.9 percent success rate on dropbacks this season.

Week 14 – vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Bye

- Week 6: Loss vs Detroit (20-6)

- Week 7: Loss vs Atlanta (16-13)

Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 7:

Best offensive player in Week 7: WR Mike Evans

There’s a lot to like about Tampa Bay’s offense, but the Falcons did a great job holding down the unit while getting pressure on Baker Mayfield. Early in the game, Evans threatened to take things over. He averaged five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in his previous five games against Terrell and the Falcons, and he finished Sunday’s game with six catches for 82 yards and a 40-yard score.

Best defensive player in Week 7: S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Winfield gets this spot for his goal-line forced fumble alone. That one play kept the Buccaneers alive in this game and could very easily have been the play of the game if Tampa Bay had won. It was a big learning moment for Desmond Ridder and a sign of Winfield’s never-say-die play style.

Team stat to know: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are second in the NFC South, one spot behind the Atlanta Falcons.

Week 15 – at Carolina Panthers (0-6)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Loss at Detroit (24-42)

- Week 6: Loss at Miami (42-21)

- Week 7: Bye

Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 7:

Taking a little cat nap and licking their wounds.

Best offensive player in Week 6: WR Adam Thielen

Thielen has claimed this spot a lot recently, and it’s a testament to the chemistry he’s developed with quarterback Bryce Young. Thielen kept his hot streak going with 11 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Best defensive player in Week 6: CB Troy Hill

Carolina’s reserve corner made a great play late in this game to keep the score somewhat respectable. His 61-yard touchdown return off an interception was about as easy as they come, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Team stat to know: Carolina’s defense has a rush EPA (expected points added) per play of .156, which is the worst mark in the league and .13 worse than the 31st-ranked defense.

Week 16 – vs Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Win vs Tennessee (16-23)

- Week 6: Loss at Jacksonville (37-20)

- Week 7: Loss vs Cleveland (39-38)

Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 7:

Indianapolis lost possibly the craziest game of the weekend. It was a lively, back-and-forth game in which the Colts gained over 450 yards on offense and averaged nearly seven yards per play. However, four turnovers, including a fumble that was recovered by the Browns in the end zone, doomed them.

Best offensive player in Week 7: WR Josh Downs

The rookie receiver has begun to emerge as the top option in the Colts’ passing attack under Gardner Minshew. He was targeted six times and caught five passes for a team-high 125 yards and his second touchdown of the season.

Best defensive player in Week 7: S Julian Blackmon

Blackmon has played well in the month of October, and he continued that against Cleveland. He intercepted his second pass of the season and finished fourth on the team with five tackles against the Browns. The fourth-year safety is quietly putting together his best campaign as a pro.

Team stat to know: The Colts’ offense ranks in the Top 10 in passing yards, rushing yards and total yards per game this season.

Week 17 – at Chicago Bears (2-5)

Last three games:

- Week 5: Win at Washington (40-20)

- Week 6: Loss vs Minnesota (19-13)

- Week 7: Win vs Las Vegas (30-12)

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 7:

Best offensive player in Week 7: RB D’Onta Foreman

All due respect to rookie Tyson Bagent, who was 21-of-29 for 162 yards with a touchdown pass in his NFL debut, but Foreman was the driver of Chicago’s offensive success. He carried the ball 16 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns while also catching three passes for 31 yards and another score. Foreman accounted for all of the Bears’ touchdowns on offense.

Best defensive player in Week 7: CB Jaylon Johnson

The other Chicago touchdown on the afternoon came courtesy of Johnson. He intercepted two passes against Las Vegas, returning one of them 39 yards in the fourth quarter to extend the Bears lead and guarantee the victory.

Team stat to know: Chicago currently holds the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.