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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 1

A quick look at how each team left on the Falcons’ schedule is doing as the 2023 season begins

Welcome to the first chapter of Bird’s Eye View!

This idea came about as a way to keep tabs on the Falcons’ opponents throughout the season. In this piece, I’ll briefly touch on 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.

Because of the nature of this piece, each week will get shorter as more future opponents become past memories. Less opponents means more space for me to share thoughts, especially if the Falcons are right in the thick of things. So, this first piece will include my cursory thoughts for each team.

Please consider this a light skimming of the surface for those who want to check in throughout the season for a look at the remaining schedule. We have many other fantastic writers on this site who will dig much deeper into each individual matchup.

Alright, this piece is long enough, so I’ll cut the preamble.

Here’s how the rest of Atlanta’s opponents fared in Week 2, starting with the team we will see in just a few short days.

Week 2 – Green Bay Packers

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won @ Chicago (38-20)

Tweet-length summary of Packers in Week 1:

All the attention has been on the quarterback position, but the defensive line is the star of the show. The Packers looked sharp from start to finish against a Bears team that might not be very good.

Best offensive player in Week 1: Aaron Jones

No disrespect to David Bakhtiari, who was phenomenal as always in Week 1, but Jones was the straw that stirred the Green Bay offense. He finished with 127 all-purpose yards, including a 51-yard touchdown catch, and had two scores. His health for Sunday will be a major storyline.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Rashan Gary

Quay Walker’s pick-six was the punctuation mark, and truly an incredible play. But, according to PFF, Gary logged five quarterback pressures on only 10 pass-rush snaps! He passed the eye-test as well, forcing multiple replays for his forced fumble in the second half. Gary is capable of replicating Brian Burns’s performance if the Falcons aren’t careful.

X-factor for Packers in Week 2: Jayden Reed

Green Bay’s second-round pick is a threat as both a receiver and a returner. Reed was targeted a team-high five times in his first game and caught two passes for 48 yards. He also returned three punts, including a 35-yard burst that helped flip the field. An explosive player, Reed is someone to keep an eye on.

Team stat to know: The Packers rank 4th in team DVOA. They scored the second-most points in the NFL in Week 1.

Week 3 – Detroit Lions

Last three games:

- Week 1: Win at Kansas City (21-20)

Tweet-length summary of Lions in Week 1:

The offensive line and ground game are the identity of the Lions’ offense, and their 1-2 punch of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs is reminiscent of the Falcons’ backfield duo. Aidan Hutchinson is a nightmare off the edge. This Lions team now has some teeth.

Best offensive player in Week 1: David Montgomery

The Lions were pretty balanced against the Chiefs, but Montgomery was the engine that drove the unit. He ran hard between the tackles and showcased a smooth twitchiness that I hadn’t noticed from him before. Gibbs was the change-of-pace, and Montgomery was the guy.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Brian Branch

Branch’s pick-six in the second half ultimately proved to be the difference for Detroit on the road, and it was a great start for the rookie, who many Falcons fans should be familiar with from the pre-draft process. The Lions’ slot corner has a knack for making plays, and he made a few in his debut.

X-factor for Lions in Week 3: C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Another member of Detroit’s secondary could swing things when they take on the Falcons. CJGJ is the type of aggressive-minded player who could make Desmond Ridder pay if he’s off-target over the middle. He will also be a big factor in run defense for Detroit, meaning he should be very active against Atlanta.

Team stat to know: Detroit’s offense is Top 10 in passing (250) and rushing (118) yards per game.

Week 4 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won at Indianapolis (31-21)

Tweet-length summary of Jaguars in Week 1:


Best offensive player in Week 1: Calvin Ridley

Ridley looks poised to finally become the No. 1 receiver he always appeared capable of being. It’s unfortunate a year of his career was lost, but nearly every Falcons fan I’ve talked to wishes him nothing but the best. Let’s hop on the Ridley hype train.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Josh Allen

My goodness is Allen an absolute predator coming off the edge. He recorded three sacks in the season opener and also finished second on the team with 10 tackles. Atlanta’s tackles are in for it to start the season.

Team stat to know: Jacksonville is second behind only Dallas in team DVOA after Week 1.

Week 5 – Houston Texans

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost at Baltimore (25-9)

Tweet-length summary of Texans in Week 1:

CJ Stroud completed 28 passes and only five of them were on throws longer than 9 yards. Will Anderson, meanwhile, looked excellent as always. The Texans have a long way to go.

Best offensive player in Week 1: Nico Collins

The third-year receiver was Stroud’s favorite target, reeling in six catches for 80 yards.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Tavierre Thomas

Houston’s nickel corner had an excellent first game. He finished second on the team with 8 tackles and was active against the Ravens on the ground as well as effective in coverage.

Team stat to know: Houston’s defense allowed a 53-percent conversion rate on third down in Week 1, fourth-worst in the league.

Week 6 – Washington Commanders

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won vs Arizona (20-16)

Tweet-length summary of Commanders in Week 1:

Washington’s defensive line is no joke. The rest of this team…

Best offensive player in Week 1: Sam Cosmi

I really enjoyed watching Sam Cosmi when he played at Texas, so I was delighted to see him in this game and see him play really well.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Montez Sweat

Sweat had two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, leading a terrific performance for Washington’s defensive line. Have I mentioned it doesn’t get easier for Atlanta’s tackles?

Team stat to know: The Commanders allowed the fourth-least number of yards in Week 1.

Weeks 7 & 14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won vs Minnesota (20-17)

Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 1:

Best offensive player in Week 1: Tristan Wirfs

Wirfs was virtually flawless in his first game as a left tackle in the NFL, and he had a big hand in keeping a good defensive line in check.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Devin White

The uber-athletic linebacker was all over the place on Sunday for Tampa’s defense. He blitzed, he stuffed the run and he made plays in coverage.

Team stat to know: The Buccaneers allowed 41 rushing yards in Week 1, the fewest in the league.

Week 8 – Tennessee Titans

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost at New Orleans (16-15)

Tweet-length summary of Titans in Week 1:

Best offensive player in Week 1: Derrick Henry

As much fun as Tyjae Spears was to watch when he had the ball, this is still Henry’s show. He gained 119 yards on 17 touches, including an impressive 46-yard catch. King Henry isn’t gone yet.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Denico Autry

Autry has been a personal favorite of mine back from his time in Indy, and he was great against New Orleans. He had a pair of sacks and seven total pressures to give the Titans some juice.

Team stat to know: Tennessee’s three turnovers were second-most in the NFL last week.

Week 9 – Minnesota Vikings

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost vs Tampa Bay (20-17)

Tweet-length summary of Vikings in Week 1:

Kirk Cousins had nearly 350 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Justin Jefferson had 150 yards for the Vikings. Maybe running backs do matter?

Best offensive player in Week 1: Justin Jefferson

The best receiver in the league looked like nothing less than that against the Buccaneers. He caught nine of his 12 targets and was Minnesota’s second-highest-graded offensive player on Sunday per PFF.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Camryn Bynum

I was really impressed watching Bynum in this game. He played all over the place, logging snaps at every part of the defensive formation. Bynum led the team with 10 tackles and he was quick to rally on short passes.

Team stat to know: The Vikings rank third in both yards per play and yards per play allowed.

Week 10 – Arizona Cardinals

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost at Washington (20-16)

Tweet-length summary of Cardinals in Week 1:

Arizona’s defense was very frisky in this game, but Josh Dobbs and the offense were not. The Cardinals’ long season is underway.

Best offensive player in Week 1: James Conner

This selection is almost by default. That’s how rough Sunday was for Arizona’s offense. Conner wasn’t particularly exciting, carrying the ball 14 times for 62 yards, but at least he was getting the job done.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Dennis Gardeck

The sixth-year linebacker had two of the Cardinals’ six sacks, which is an excellent debut for someone I’d never heard of before Sunday.

Team stat to know: Arizona’s defense ranks in the Top 12 in yards per play (6th), rushing yards per play (10th) and passing yards per play (12th).

Weeks 12 & 18 – New Orleans Saints

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won vs Tennessee (16-15)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 1:

Those dastardly ne’er-do-wells escape by the skin of their teeth once again!

Best offensive player in Week 1: Rashid Shaheed

Chris Olave’s ascension is off to a good start, but I want to give Shaheed props here. His double move for a touchdown was an thing of beauty, and he looked much more polished to start the 2023 season.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Demario Davis

Many of the big names in New Orleans’ secondary had an interception, but Davis remains the gem at the heart of this defense. He had a huge hand in the Saints limiting Derrick Henry, and therefore the entire Titans offense.

Team stat to know: The Saints held the Titans offense to just 16.67 percent on third down, the second-best mark in the league.

Week 13 – New York Jets

Last three games:

- Week 1: Won vs Buffalo (22-16)

Tweet-length summary of Jets in Week 1:

Best offensive player in Week 1: Breece Hall

Aaron Rodgers needs to follow whatever advice Hall can give him as he rehabs his Achilles, because the second-year back was explosive in his return from his own season-ending ligament injury last year. Hall was on a pitch count and only played 17 snaps, but he gained 127 yards on just 10 carries while also catching one pass for 20 yards.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Jordan Whitehead

Have yourself a day, Jordan Whitehead! The Jets safety intercepted Josh Allen three times, leading to 10 points for the Jets in a game where every point mattered. Don’t get it twisted, New York’s defensive line is the main star of this group, but Whitehead earned this placement.

Team stat to know: The Jets are No. 1 in special teams DVOA after Week 1.

Week 15 – Carolina Panthers

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost at Atlanta (24-10)

Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 1:

Best offensive player in Week 1: Chuba Hubbard

This spot could have gone to either running back, but Hubbard, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry, was the more effective player on a per-snap basis.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Brian Burns

He had 1.5 sacks in the first 8 minutes of the game.

Team stat to know: Carolina ranks fifth in rushing yards per game (154).

Week 16 – Indianapolis Colts

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost vs Jacksonville (31-21)

Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 1:

Indianapolis’s defense played much better than 31 points allowed would suggest, but that’s how good Jacksonville was. Anthony Richardson has a lot of promise and could be scary by season’s end.

Best offensive player in Week 1: Quenton Nelson

One of the league’s best guards since entering the NFL, Nelson had a down year by his standards in 2022. Against Jacksonville’s excellent defensive line, he got back to his standard of play. Nelson allowed just one pressure and help up well for his rookie quarterback.

Best defensive player in Week 1: DeForest Buckner

Buckner was the star on Sunday the Colts hope to get year-round. He made a huge stop on fourth down and also had a strip-sack that he recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter. A great start for Buckner in a losing effort.

Team stat to know: The Colts forced three fumbles against Jacksonville, tied for the most in the NFL in Week 1.

Week 17 – Chicago Bears

Last three games:

- Week 1: Lost vs Green Bay (38-20)

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 1:

Best offensive player in Week 1: Roschon Johnson

May be stretching the definition of “best” here, but the rookie running back gave his team an undeniable spark while on the field. He gained 55 total yards and scored one touchdown.

Best defensive player in Week 1: Eddie Jackson

Not getting cute with this one. Jackson was once again all over the field for Chicago’s defense, making plays against the run and in coverage. He was a small bright spot on a bad day for the Bears.

Team stat to know: Chicago’s defense ranks 30th in passing yards per play allowed (8.78)