Over the course of the 2023 season, the Atlanta Falcons have caught some of their opponents when those teams were battling major injuries. Think the Minnesota Vikings minus Kirk Cousins—though we all know how that went—or the Green Bay Packers without top weapons on offense. That’s not to say the Falcons have been particularly lucky with injuries, given that they’ve lost an absolutely vital player in Grady Jarrett, a young linebacker they were set to count on in Troy Andersen, and useful players like Mack Hollins and Avery Williams. They just haven’t necessarily had a rash of injuries major and minor pile up the way some teams have.
Until this past week. Playing in wet conditions on the big green cement slab that is MetLife Stadium, the Falcons lost starting cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah, starting linebacker Nate Landman, and starting right tackle Kaleb McGary in the span of a single afternoon. Defensive lineman David Onyemata and center Drew Dalman are now dealing with injuries, as well, and Hollins and Mike Hughes missed Sunday’s game and are no lock to return. That’s a long list that includes multiple important starters, and even if the Buccaneers are also dinged up, it makes the going tougher for Atlanta in an important divisional matchup.
The end result is that Atlanta’s depth is likely to be tested, especially on defense. The hapless Jets offense couldn’t take full advantage of Terrell and Landman being out, but the Buccaneers are better-positioned to do so, with Clark Phillips potentially drawing some tough snaps against Mike Evans and Andre Smith Jr. set to step in for a full game. The Bucs defensive line will also test Storm Norton over the course of a full game, and while he has held up well in his couple of stints filling in for McGary this season, we have yet to see him do so for an entire game. It’s certainly possible that Atlanta gets Terrell back and the spot starters do admirable work against a challenging-but-not-great opponent, but I wouldn’t want to put down any significant sums betting that everything goes quite as smoothly as we’d like.
The injury reports the next three days will tell us how concerned we should be, but it’s a virtual lock that the Falcons will be facing the Buccaneers short-handed on Sunday. They’ll have to overcome that Sunday to earn the first three game winning streak of the Arthur Smith era and in order to stay on top of the NFC South, and we’ll soon find out how just how deep they need to dig and how deep they can dig.