Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!
The Atlanta Falcons are mercifully on their bye week this weekend after a three-game losing skid that featured a pair of last-second heartbreakers. While confidence may be at a season-low point for this team’s playoff chances, they remain very much in the thick of it thanks to another weak year in the NFC South.
However, while the team had better be focused on finding answers to the ever-changing problems they’ve faced in 2023, we are here to do a little advanced scouting on what awaits after the bye week.
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 10:
Weeks 12 & 18 – New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Win at Indianapolis (38-27)
- Week 9: Win vs Chicago (24-17)
- Week 10: Loss at Minnesota (27-19)
Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 10:
Jameis Winston entered the game in the second half and helped the Saints rally late to cut this to a one-score game. He also threw two easy interceptions for the Vikings, stopping the Saints’ comeback attempt in its tracks. Ah, Jameis, we missed you.
Best offensive player in Week 10: WR Chris Olave
Even with a lot of really good, young receivers in the NFL, Olave is among the best. He again led all Saints players through the air, catching six passes for 94 yards and a beautiful touchdown in the back of the end zone. This season, Olave has 56 catches for 657 yards and three touchdowns.
Best defensive player in Week 10: CB Marshon Lattimore
New Orleans’ cornerbacks are playing very well this season, and while Paulson Adebo once again had a great game, Lattimore is the pick here. He wasn’t as involved as a tackler as Adebo, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles, but Lattimore allowed just one reception in his coverage for 6 yards. On a day when the Vikings’ offense rolled, Lattimore held his own.
Team stat to know: New Orleans’ defense ranks 23rd in rushing yards allowed per play (4.3).
X-factor for the Saints in Week 12: Taysom Hill
Arguably the league-wide x-factor, Hill is propelling the Saints forward during the middle portion of the season. He’s a threat on the ground, through the air and as a passer, making it incredibly difficult to figure out how the Saints will deploy him each week. The Falcons should be as familiar with Hill’s abilities as any team in the NFL – he had 111 rushing yards, 80 passing yards and 2 receiving yards against Atlanta last year – but knowing what he can do isn’t the same as knowing how to slow him down.
Week 13 – at New York Jets (4-5)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Win at New York Giants (13-10)
- Week 9: Loss vs Los Angeles Chargers (27-6)
- Week 10: Loss at Las Vegas (16-12)
Tweet-length summary of Jets in Week 10:
Being a fan of the New York Jets will have you rethinking your life’s meaning. This is not living, I’m just existing— Lee O. Valentin (@leeovalentin) November 13, 2023
Best offensive player in Week 10: WR Garrett Wilson
A big performance in a low-scoring and losing effort has unfortunately become the norm for Wilson this year. He caught nine of the 14 passes thrown his way for 93 yards, including a beautiful 41-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. He couldn’t come down with the game-winning Hail Mary, but Wilson has done pretty much everything else.
Best defensive player in Week 10: LB Quincy Williams
The interior of New York’s defense is its strength, and Williams is a huge part of that. He had five stops against the Raiders, second-most on the team, and allowed just 9 receiving yards in his coverage. The Jets have a few bigger names on defense, including an even more famous Q. Williams, but their weakside linebacker has been awesome this year.
Team stat to know: The Jets rank sixth in defensive DVOA.
X-factor for the Jets in Week 13: DT Quinnen Williams
Williams has the third-best PFF grade among interior defensive linemen this season, and he looks dominant at times. Although he has just a half-sack on the season, he has the third most pressures for interior players behind only Dexter Lawrence and Aaron Donald. Atlanta’s guards and center Drew Dalman will have their work cut out for them once again against Williams.
Quinnen Williams generated 3 pressures on 10 pass rushes when double teamed in Week 10.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 13, 2023
Williams has generated a league-high 15 pressures vs double teams this season, 2 more than any other pass rusher.#NYJvsLVR | #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/JsQyh2Bnya
Week 14 – vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Loss at Buffalo (18-24)
- Week 9: Loss at Houston (39-37)
- Week 10: Win vs Tennessee (20-6)
Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 10:
Will Levis vs. Baker Mayfield sure felt like it involved more than two total interceptions (one each) but this was still a game defined by defense. Tampa Bay’s defense put the clamps on Derrick Henry and the Titan’s offense, and they are still alive after losing four straight. Falcons, take note.
Best offensive player in Week 10: WR Mike Evans
The same familiar faces in the NFC South are dominating once again, and Evans is a prime example. He is putting together a special season, and he had six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Evans has 43 catches for 737 yards and six touchdowns in nine games.
Best defensive player in Week 10: DT Vita Vea
Tennessee gained only 42 yards on 16 rush attempts, and Vea’s presence in the middle continues to hinder opposing ground games. He had two stops and was also a big factor in Tampa Bay’s pass rush, finishing the game with a sack and five total pressures.
Team stat to know:
Week 15 – at Carolina Panthers (1-8)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Win vs Houston (15-13)
- Week 9: Loss vs Indianapolis (27-13)
- Week 10: Loss at Chicago (16-13)
Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 10:
Is Frank Reich going to survive his first season in Carolina?
Best offensive player in Week 10: LT Ikem Ekwonu
If there is any solace for the Panthers this season, it’s that Ekwonu is showing glimpses of becoming the long-term answer at left tackle. If Carolina is still confident in Bryce Young’s future, having a young quarterback and his blindside protector in hand is a good place to start.
Best defensive player in Week 10: CB Donte Jackson
Jackson struggled mightily to start the year, but he’s shown improvement the last three weeks. His play on Thursday night was his best all season. He had six passes thrown his way, but Jackson allowed just one completion for 4 yards. He also finished third on the team with seven tackles, five of which were stops.
Team stat to know: Carolina averages 4.2 yards per play on offense, which is second-worst in the NFL.
Week 16 – vs Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Loss vs New Orleans (38-27)
- Week 9: Win at Carolina (27-13)
- Week 10: Win at New England (10-6)
Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 10:
The days of classic Manning-Brady clashes are waaaaaaaay behind us now.
Best offensive player in Week 10: LT Bernhard Raimann
In his second NFL season, Raimann looks like a long-term answer for the Colts. He had a borderline elite pass-blocking grade on Sunday morning, allowing just one pressure on 28 snaps. Raimann is a balanced left tackle who should be a piece the Colts rebuild their offense with.
Best defensive player in Week 10: SS Julian Blackmon
Blackmon may have ended Mac Jones’s career in New England with his interception at the goal line, which played a big part in this game ending with a baseball score. Both Colts safeties had key interceptions late in this game, but Blackmon was tested consistently on Sunday and he came through nearly every time.
Team stat to know: The Colts’ defense has the fourth-most interceptions this season.
Week 17 – at Chicago Bears (3-7)
Last three games:
- Week 8: Loss at Los Angeles Chargers (30-13)
- Week 9: Loss at New Orleans (24-17)
- Week 10: Win vs Carolina (16-13)
Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 10:
Tyson Bagent & Bryce Young throwing the ball tonight pic.twitter.com/ScdSSgEi3l— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) November 10, 2023
Best offensive player in Week 10: RB D’Onta Foreman
What the Bears lack everywhere else on offense, they have in their running back room. Depth, talent, consistency. Foreman, the team’s third starter this season, was once again excellent for the Bears. He was the drumbeat of their offense, carrying the ball 21 times for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Best defensive player in Week 10: CB Kyle Gordon
Gordon finished third on the team with eight tackles, including six stops. The slot cornerback was very active in run defense near the line of scrimmage and clogged throwing lanes for Bryce Young while allowing only five completions on nine targets. It was by far his best game of the year and possibly a big step in the right direction for the second-year corner.
Team stat to know: Chicago is second in the NFL with 1,351 rushing yards.