Falcons Look To Make Mark In NFC Playoff Race

Falcons Look To Make Mark In NFC Playoff Race
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They started their seasons in different fashion. Now the Saints and Falcons head into week two both facing challenging games against (expected) playoff contenders. The Falcons open their home schedule with the Eagles coming to town, meanwhile the Saints travel to Los Angeles, looking to avenge their Championship game loss against the Rams.

Eagles @ Falcons – Sunday Night Football

Atlanta collapsed in week one and only scored when four scores down in the fourth quarter. The main reason that the Vikings gameplan was so effective, with only 10 attempted passes from Kirk Cousins, was that the Vikings opened an early lead, two scores up midway through the first quarter. To get their season back on track, they need to score early themselves and control the game.

The Eagles showed last week that they can play from behind so an early score for the Falcons is no guarantee. However, taking the lead means that Dirk Koetter can use the full playbook. The Falcons have plenty of offensive talent and need to use everyone, including Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith on the ground, to stretch a talented Eagles defence.

If they can get the offence flowing early, it will test the Eagles. The Falcons offence needs to by firing on all cylinders, matching last year’s sixth highest yard totals, to compete with the NFC powerhouses.

Can Falcons stop the run?

There were questions about the defence heading into season. However, it’s worrying that Atlanta was taken apart by such a one dimensional attack, and it’s not out of the question that they could be beaten by Carson Wentz in the passing game this week. That said, they’ll need to start by shutting down Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders today. That way they can focus on getting after Carson Wentz.

Maybe it was Gary Kubiak’s scheme but ultimately Grady Jarrett needs to prove why he was given a big money deal. The Falcons defence needs to stop this game becoming a shoot out. If they can limit the Eagles to 24 points, it reduces the pressure on the offence to score on every drive. That should also reduce turnovers.

Is this a must win game?

It’s a bit ridiculous to ask this question. However, the Falcons were always a playoff outsider, they can’t afford to be chasing the pack. Even more so as an 0-2 start would mean not having tiebreakers against the Vikings and Eagles, who will both be in the mix in December. It will be difficult but not impossible. Matt Ryan needs to be more accurate. The defence doesn’t need to shut the Eagles down, but they will need to limit Carson Wentz and control the running game though. If Atlanta can keep it close, they can score a touchdown from anywhere late on if they need one.

Verdict: Eagles 31, Falcons 27

Saints @ Rams – Sunday 9.25

New Orleans has revenge on its mind but they can’t be distracted by it. The Saints know that they can beat the Rams, they did so last year and the Championship game was so close. However, now they must do it in LA.

What happens if Rams shut down Michael Thomas & Alvin Kamara?

It’s a little unfair to ask this question, no one has really managed to do this since Kamara was drafted. However, a phenomenal amount of the Saints offence comes through the pair. However, if anyone can, it’s surely the much vaunted Rams unit. If the Rams can stuff Kamara in the run game, it’ll put pressure on Brees, even with a strong O-line. However, that won’t stop Brees chipping away with short passes to Kamara and using Taysom Hill creatively.

The Rams will surely have to chip Kamara in the backfield and use a spy. That puts a lot more pressure on Michael Thomas to beat the Rams.

Has the Saints defence taken a step back?

The Saints allowed over 400 yards and yeilded two 11 point leads against the Texans. It could be early season rust but Sean Payton needs to see an improvement. The Rams have as much firepower as the Texans but won’t have the naivety to let a lead slip.

If the Saints can limit Todd Gurley and force Jared Goff to make plays, it could be a long day for the Rams. It will be interesting to see the atmosphere in the Coliseum for the NFC champion Rams. Equally, emotion is a powerful elixir, and the lust for revenge could just push the Saints over the line for a key win.

Verdict: Saints 20, Rams 17

Image: neworleanssaints.com

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