We all naturally want to believe our team can win when they take the field each week. We can usually put together a decent list of reasons that a win is possible. It can be harder to find a few reasons they can’t get a win. That is what we asked Dave Choate of The Falcoholic to do for us this week, and he obliged.
Why will the Falcons lose on Sunday? I’m not quite so doom and gloom as I was heading into last week’s game against the Eagles, the second killer matchup in a row after the Falcons got thumped in Week 1, but I’m sure I can manage to cook up a few compelling reasons.
The Falcons actually did a nice job of bottling up the Eagles ground game on Sunday. They were helped by DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery being largely unavailable and Carson Wentz not looking fantastic after taking a shot to the ribs early in the game, which allowed them to focus on the ground game a bit more, but it was still an impressive performance.
The problem is that the week before, they were utterly annihilated by Dalvin Cook, and I worry that Marlon Mack is capable of inflicting the same kind of harm on them. Cook didn’t have a ton of success running up the middle on Grady Jarrett and Tyeler Davison, the team’s imposing defensive tackle duo, but when he was able to run outside and get blocking, he sprang some huge, game-changing runs.
I don’t need to tell you that Mack is perfectly capable of doing similar damage, and while I want to believe last week’s performance for the Falcons was a sign of things to come, the fact of the matter is that we have a group that has historically struggled to bottle up capable backs with one awful game and one impressive one under their belt in 2019. I’m gonna need to see more of the latter before I declare this thing fixed, and I fear that Mack is going to be a deciding factor in this one, especially if he breaks off the kind of 63-yard back-breaker that ruined the Chargers’ day.
The Colts pass rush
Matt Ryan has been struggling a bit to start this year. He was off against the Vikings and tossed two picks with a ton of pressure on him, while last week his pocket stayed fairly clean, he had a better game, but still threw three interceptions. He’s not quite where the Falcons need him to be yet.
That’s why the Indianapolis pass rush concerns me. They’re obviously capable of getting after Ryan, and the line is a little bit in flux on Atlanta’s end with Kaleb McGary injured (though apparently not seriously, thank the Football Gods), Jamon Brown just entering the starting lineup a week ago, and Alex Mack and Jake Matthews scuffling a bit at times through the first two weeks.
Ryan was terrific against pressure a year ago during his borderline-MVP campaign--okay, Patrick Mahomes exists, so maybe not that borderline--but that just hasn’t carried over to this point. The last thing a shaky Ryan needs is a hand in his face, a drive-killing sack to overcome, or a bunch of body blows throughout what ought to be a physical game. If the Colts pass rush is as good as advertised and can consistently bring pressure, it’s going to be a long day for Atlanta.
Special teams blues
I’m sure kicker woes are consuming the Colts fanbase right now, but there’s also some concern heading into this one from the Falcons’ end of things. Matt Bryant was welcomed back with open arms by Falcons fans, but as you guys are finding out the hard way after many years of blessedly excellent kicking, at some point age becomes a genuine factor.
Bryant didn’t get a shot to kick at all in the first game, but he drilled his first 50 yard shot, which was a welcome sign after the Falcons trid and fail to move on from him in the offseason. Of course, this being the Falcons, his very next kick was also from 50 yards out and was badly shanked. Bryant is so good and so established that I don’t really believe he’s done, but you’ll forgive me for being nervous for a little longer, at least. A missed field goal could very well be the margin of defeat in this one, for either of our teams.
The other piece that worries me? The ongoing injury to punter Matt Bosher, who was active last week but couldn’t put much leg behind his punts and had to cede kickoffs to Bryant, who last handled them over a decade ago. If Bosher’s good to go for this one, it’s going to be fair to wonder whether he’ll be 100%, and field position will matter here. If he’s not active, the Falcons will bring up Matt Wile, a capable punter who would be stepping onto this team cold after getting cut by the Vikings heading into the year.
Uncertainty is not a welcome thing when we’re talking about special teams, where each play is pressure-packed, and in my worst nightmares I can see the uncertainty for Atlanta proving costly.