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The Atlanta Falcons are sliding in the NFL power rankings. Will it get worse when the Falcons' combustible defense faces Green Bay's machine-like offense?
With Aaron Rodgers looming, it's OK to fret about the Atlanta Falcons defense.
As the Atlanta Falcons successfully held off the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 at CenturyLink Field this past Sunday, it was hard to overlook a few fascinating subplots that have arisen with the Falcons after just four weeks:
As Caleb Rutherford of The Falcoholic points out Roddy White, the most targeted (last year) and one of the most reliable receivers in the NFL, is in the dumps of the league in drops this year. This trend continued as rookie standout Julio Jones had an impressive game with 11 catches and 127 yards (17 targets) while Roddy had just 6 catches and 78 yards (11 targets) for the night. Roddy is second in the NFL with 45 targets, Julio is eighth in the NFL with 38 targets.
Record-setting Julio?: In four weeks, Julio Jones has amassed 24 catches and 342 yards. Projecting over 16 games, that would put him at 96 catches and 1368 yards. Jones projections are 5 catches away from Anquan Boldin's rookie record with 101 catches in a season, back in 2003 and 105 yards behind the rookie record for yards in a season with 1473 yards by Bill Groman in 1960.
Get Turner the ball: In two Falcons wins, Michael Turner has averaged 23.5 carries/game. In two Falcons losses, Michael Turner has averaged 10.5 carries/game.
California Love: In the five games Falcons' head coach Mike Smith has managed since his arrival, Atlanta is 5-0.
Passing the bird: Tarvaris Jackson's 319 passing yards was a season high given up by the Falcons' defense, making Atlanta the 24th-ranked passing defense in the NFL
For more Atlanta Falcons coverage be sure to follow The Falcoholic on SB Nation
On Sunday, the Falcons would barely hang on for the win in Seattle, pulling out a 30-28 victory after nearly collapsing in the second half. Still, a win is a win, and if you want to get technical about it, the Falcons just beat a playoff team on the road in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
Does that mean the Falcons don't have problems? Absolutely not. But the Dirty Birds are 2-2 and still very much alive through the first quarter of the season.
I have to apologize for the poor quality of commentating in this video. You really have to wonder how FOX finds these people, and if there's actually any selection criteria or they just hire any random schmuck who interviews. I digress.
At one point, the Falcons had the game well in hand, leading 24-7 at the half. The defense was phenomenal, limiting the 'Hawks to five first half rushing rushing yards. Outside of Brent Grimes allowing Sidney Rice to slip past him on a 52-yard touchdown pass, the Falcons were almost mistake-free.
The offense, at least for the first half, was also very impressive. Ryan utilitzed almost all of his weapons, even getting Jacquizz Rodgers more involved in the no-huddle offense. Julio Jones was very involved today, racking up eleven catches for 127 yards receiving. Jones has yet to score a touchdown, but he was reeling in catches all day and making Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner look silly out there. It was a great day for Julio.
And then there was Michael Turner. At times he didn't look explosive at all, but on a 21-yard TD run in the second quarter he might as well have been Usain Bolt. He dashed in for his second rushing score of the day that put the Falcons up 21-7.
Then came the second half. For the defense, it was almost like night and day. Tarvaris Jackson came alive, and suddenly was throwing all over the field. Mostly though, he was picking on the likes of Dunta Robinson and a hobbled Kelvin Hayden. On one of his three TD passes, Dunta left his man wide open in the corner of the end zone. Towards the end of the game, he bit on a double move that almost resulted in another score. It was a terrible second half for Atlanta's big-money corner.
The main difference between the first and second half, in my contention, is that the Seattle coaching staff made adjustments the Falcons couldn't handle. The 'Hawks aren't great, but I tip my hat to Pete Carroll for an excellent second half game plan. They began running the ball more effectively, allowing Jackson to run the team's no-huddle offense, and screen plays to Marshawn Lynch actually worked (as opposed to the Falcons' miserable attempts).
The team hung on, sure. But let this be a lesson to Brian Van Gorder that shows why the prevent defense can only prevent your team from winning. If BVG's unit shows up next week against the Packers playing like the second-half Falcons, it's going to be a long day in Atlanta. Aaron Rodgers just put up 49 points on the Broncos.
So have the Falcons improved? Yes. But they're still not playing at that elite level just yet. Stay tuned, and thank the football gods the Falcons have somehow gone .500 so far.
With the Falcons set up in good position to score, the offense at least came away with some points. A 10-yard dump off pass to Jacquizz Rodgers on third down brought the Falcons into field goal range, and after Julio Jones was well-covered in the endzone the Falcons would go for a field goal. Matt Bryant would hit his third field goal of over 40 yards today, this one good from 42. That would make it 30-21 and a two-possession game.
Whatever adjustments Seattle made at the half, which apparently includes employing more of their own no-huddle offense, they seem to be working well. Though the Falcons finally started applying more pressure on Tarvaris Jackson, he's been tearing the secondary apart this half. After Brent Grimes made a spectacular leap to knock away a pass intended for Sidney Rice on second down, the defense again couldn't come through on third-and-long. Doug Baldwin made a 16-yard catch, and has continued to make catches all day.
That trend would continue. Good defense on first and second down brought up third and manageable, but a complete lapse in coverage left Ben Obomanu wide open in the corner of the endzone. All of a sudden the Seahawks are within a field goal of actually taking the lead. Jackson now has three TD passes on the day. All I can do is shake my head.
So with only eight minutes left in this football game, the Falcons take over on offense really, really needing to score a touchdown. An eight-yard completion to Roddy White brought up third and short, and Tony Gonzalez came up with a man's catch that was good for a Falcons first down.
Another pass to Roddy was ruled incomplete and challenged, but not overturned. On the third third-down of the drive, Ryan continued his apparent success on the ground by scrambling for the first. It certainly isn't the prettiest stride, but Matty Ice does whatever it takes it would seem. After another failed handoff to Turner and a short completion to Gonzalez, the Falcons were faced with yet another third down at the two-minute warning.
Though Ryan got the protection he needed, his throw floated over the head of Gonzalez and incomplete. Matt Bosher's 28-yard punt was good enough to at least pin Seattle inside of their own twenty. And on first down, what could have very easily been a Ray Edwards interception was tipped in the air and caught by Forsett for a nine-yard gain. All you can do is shake your head.
As the Seahawks continued to drive down the field, that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach began to grow. With 0:13 left on the clock, Pete Carroll called Steve Hauschka out onto the field to try a 61-yard field goal, the potential game winner. It missed. Every member of Falcons nation exhales.
Atlanta narrowly escapes blowing a 17-point lead, and moves to 2-2 on the season. This team still has much to improve upon. The defense crumbled in the second half of that game, and seemingly allowed Tarvaris Jackson to score at whim towards the end. But we'll save that discussion for later.
Falcons win, and for now that's all that matters.
I really don't have many words for how the rest of this third quarter has gone. Earlier in the quarter, Ray Edwards walked off the field with an undisclosed injury, and then Peria Jerry did the same with an apparent injury to the knee. When I hear "Peria" and "knee" in the same sentence, I get very nervous. More updates to come.
The Falcons took over on offense following that Seahawks score, and really didn't accomplish much. A holding penalty put the Falcons in a first and twenty, and were ultimately forced to punt. That quickly gave the ball back to the 'Hawks with all the momentum seemingly going their way.
All of a sudden, Seattle could move the ball on offense. A 26-yard screen pass to Marshawn Lynch followed by another completion to Doug Baldwin brought their offense to midfield. Another screen pass, this time to Justin Forsett, went for an 18-yard gain and had the Seahawks set up in the red zone. But a monster hit by James Sanders popped a would-be touchdown pass up into the air, and Thomas DeCoud promptly intercepted it and bailed out the rest of the defense.
Then, with the ball on the Atlanta five, Mike Mularkey's playcalling could not get the Falcons out of the shadow of their own goal post. Two failed running plays followed by an incompletion on third and long had the shaky Matt Bosher punting out of his own end zone. You know, at SOME POINT maybe you stop being so predictable on offense Mularkey. Two runs and a pass does not keep the defense off-balance. Just a suggestion.
So, as one might expect, Bosher's punt went for a whopping 40 yards, and a great return by Leon Washington had the Seahawks in great field position at the Atlanta 11-yard line. All effects of the interception were essentially negated by poor play calling and special teams ineptitude. Seattle quickly took advantage of this opportunity by handing it off to Lynch, who took it in for the touchdown.
The Falcons took over now only nursing a slim 27-21 lead, and desperately needing to provide a response to 14 third-quarter points allowed. Realizing that the running game was quickly losing steam, the Falcons turned to the pass and found some success pretty quickly. Ryan spread the ball around to Julio, Roddy, and Gonzalez, effectively marching the offense all the way to the Seattle 35 early in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons need to hold onto this lead. With few easier games on the schedule and teams like the Saints continuing to win games, the Falcons need to send a message that they are still for real. To Brian Van Gorder: Prevent Defense. Just say "no."
If you thought the Falcons were going to come out in the second half with a conservative gameplan, well you thought wrong. On the Falcons first play from scrimmage, Matt Ryan launched a 45-yard bomb to Julio Jones on a play that just made me say "wow." With that play, No. 11 has now surpassed 100 yard receiving for the second straight week. Nice to see that draft day trade paying dividends early as the Falcons had hoped.
But a first down pass to Roddy White was challenged and correctly reversed, and Ryan couldn't find an open receiver on third down. So, the Falcons brought out the field goal unit and Matt Bryant's field goal try, this one from 50 yards out, split the uprights perfectly. That put the Falcons up 27-7, extended the lead to twenty. Six for six.
On defense, however, it looks as if the Falcons have moved to their "prevent" defense. Not. A. Fan. After Justin Forsett pushed the ball to midfield for a first down, Tarvaris Jackson again found Doug Baldwin wide open in the slot for a 20 yard gain. Later on third-and-six, a poor attempted tackle of Mike Williams ended up as a 19-yard completion deep into Falcons territory.
The defense, usually good in the red zone, this time allowed a touchdown. Mike Peterson showed why he's not the ideal starter at outside linebacker anymore, misreading the play and allowing Jackson to find Williams for a six-yard score that cut the Falcons lead by seven points. Just like last year, the Falcons allowed a big halftime lead to diminish in the third quarter. I guess this really is last year's team. Falcons lead 27-14.
On the ensuing possession by the Seahawks, the defense allowed a quick score that put Seattle right back into the game, exactly what you don't want to see if you're the Falcons. A second-down pass that was first ruled a fumble/recovery that would've actually helped the Seahawks, it was then ruled an incompletion following a Mike Smith challenge.
That play brought up a third-and-eight, and the Falcons looked to be in good position to get the ball back. But Tarvaris Jackson managed to get the ball to Doug Baldwin over a slightly hobbled Kelvin Hayden for a thirty-yard gain, putting the Seahawks in business at midfield.
Then on what would have been a free play due to an offsides penalty called on Kroy Biermann, Jackson launched what I'll admit was a great pass and found Sidney Rice for the 52-yard score. Though Rice is a big receiver, he has some pretty deceptive speed and basically had Brent Grimes beat the whole way down the field. That cut the Falcons lead in half, 14-7.
So, after a solid kickoff return by Eric Weems, the offense went to work right away by picking up the first down on a 10-yard swing pass to Michael Turner. Then, after a screen pass to Julio Jones that failed in every sense of the word, Ryan went right back Julio on third-and-thirteen for a 29-yard gain. Jones has really been the difference maker for the offense today, already hauling in six catches for 60 yards.
Then Ryan turned to his most reliable weapon in Roddy White. On a third-down play in which the pass protection (mostly Sam Baker) completely broke down, Ryan somehow managed to find Roddy for an 15-yard gain with Seahawks defenders hanging all over him. Two plays later, the two connected yet again, this time a 16-yard tip-toe catch that brought up a first and goal at the two.
Turner was able to power it in from one yard out for his second score of the day, capping an 11-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. After giving up a big score, the Falcons offense responded in a big way to regain their 14-point lead.
The Seahawks offense took the field hoping to continue their recent success, but the Falcons D wasn't going to have any of it, forcing a very quick three-and-out. While he's made some good plays on the day, Jackson simply hasn't been consistent enough to orchestrate any sort of extended drive.
So as a result of that defensive stop, the offense had the ball with under two minutes left in the half and all three timeouts. After some more poor tackling by Seattle's defense, they had the ball at midfield and again turned to the no-huddle. But after a third down incompletion on what was probably pass interference against Brandon Browner, the Falcons settled for a field goal, which Matt Bryant nailed from 47 yards out. He is now five-for-five on the year.
That effectively brought an end to the first half, with the Falcons holding a comfortable 24-7 lead over the Seahawks. A couple of important things to note: the Falcons have not committed any turnovers, and have only allowed five yards rushing in the first half. Ryan is an efficient 16/21 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown.
All that remains for Atlanta now is to stay strong on defense (that means no prevent defense-- I'm talking to you, Brian Van Gorder) and continue to stay mistake-free. "Back to basics" was the theme for the week, and so far the Falcons have delivered.
The Falcons had the 'Hawks pinned deep in their own territory, but two defensive penalties had their offense in business at the thirty. Fortunately the penalties stopped there, and the Falcons defense brought up a third-and-four. Curtis Lofton, who was sitting in underneath coverage on the play, then took advantage of being in great position by picking off Tarvaris Jackson.
That turnover put the Falcons offense in great position to put up some points, and boy did they score quickly. After a rare Matt Ryan scramble brought up a first down at the Seattle twenty, Michael Turner took advantage of some great blocking and dashed in for the score from twenty yards out.
I mean, there was an absolutely huge left open by the Seahawks on that play, and the Burner showed some great acceleration to carry it across the goal line almost untouched. With that score, the Falcons now hold a 14-0 lead on the 'Hawks.
In other slightly related news, the Panthers fell to Chicago 34-29, and the Saints beat the Jags 23-10. Also, the Eagles lost to the mighty 49ers in a 24-23 San Francisco upset (insert Dream Team jokes here).
For the Falcons, it has been a great start in Seattle.
After taking a 7-0 lead on the road, Atlanta followed up their offensive success with another defensive stop. After giving up a 23-yard connection between Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice on first down, the defense barely held on to force another 'Hawks punt. Some good pressure by Kroy Biermann forced Jackson out of the pocket on third down, and Corey Peters brought him down just short of the first-down marker.
On the ensuing offensive possession, the Falcons again began their drive with two running plays that featured Michael Turner. Then on third-and-three, Ryan floated a pass over to Julio Jones that went for a 14-yard gain and a first down. Ryan continued to exploit that matchup, finding Jones on a nine-yard completion only two plays later.
As the first quarter comes to a close, the Falcons looked to be in good position to extend their lead early on in this game. Ryan hooked up with Julio for the third time on the drive to bring up another third-and-short, but safety Atari Bigby was all over Tony Gonzalez. That would force a punt, and Matt Bosher continued his good play by pinning the Seahawks at their own 11-yard line. The Falcons still hold a 7-point lead early on in this football game.
The Falcons' week four matchup with the Seahawks is now underway, and for Atlanta this is certainly a game they need to win in order to keep pace with the rest of the NFC South. The Falcons will be without defensive starters Jonathan Babineaux and Stephen Nicholas yet again, with Peria Jerry and Mike Peterson starting in their place.
Seattle got the ball on offense to begin the game, and the defense very quickly forced a three-and-out. After a quick seven-yard completion to Michael Robinson on first down, the Falcons did what eight Saints apparently could not do and tackled Marshawn Lynch. Good coverage of Zach Miller on caused Tarvaris Jackson to throw the ball away on third down, forcing a punt.
On offense, Mike Mularkey began the game in very typical fashion: two handoffs to Michael Turner, followed by a third-and-one rollout pass that went to Julio Jones for a first down. The Falcons continued their attempts to get Turner involved in the offense early, and on another third-and-one he punched through the middle to bring up a first down at the Seattle 46-yard line.
Then the Falcons matched their actions with what has been talked about all week: turning to the no-huddle offense early. Jacquizz Rodgers checked into the game, and got three straight carries with Matt Ryan calling plays. Ryan then hooked up with Roddy White for a 26-yard gain, and two plays later he found "best tight end in the universe" Tony Gonzalez in the end zone for a one-yard TD toss.
With that, the Falcons did just what they wanted by grabbing an early 7-0 lead on the road and taking the crowd out of the game. It's also worth noting that Matt Bosher has two touchbacks on two kickoffs. Good start, Falcons!
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has appeared on the team's injury list throughout the week leading up to Sunday's Seattle Seahawks game. A quad injury listed the star player's practice, but he's set to play.
The inactives list contains no real surprises -- another week minus Jonathan Babineaux will hurt, but Mike Peterson is a capable replacement for Stephen Nicholas, and it might be fun to see what Jacquizz Rodgers can do as the No. 2 back. It might not be fun if it doesn't work. Fun's like that sometimes.
Here's the list for both teams:
29 - CB Darrin Walls
44 - RB Jason Snelling
54 - LB Stephen Nicholas
66 - C Brett Romberg
79 - G Mike Johnson
95 - DT Jonathan Babineaux
98 - DE Cliff Matthews
53 Mike Peterson will start at linebacker for 54 Stephen Nicholas.
94 Peria Jerry will start at defensive tackle for 95 Jonathan Babineaux.
2 - QB Josh Portis
16 - WR Kris Durham
31 - SS Kam Chancellor
41 - CB Byron Maxwell
72 - G Robert Gallery
77 - T Jarriel King
90 - DT Al Woods
The Week 4 lines feature many miniscule spreads, some potential blowouts, and plenty of drama for the degenerate gambler in your life.
This afternoon at 4PM Eastern the Atlanta Falcons will face off against the Seattle Seahawks (4 pm ET, FOX) in a game that could have major repercussions down the road in the NFC South. I say this because this is a winnable game, and should be a victory for Atlanta, but too often we see teams overlook opponents and slip up; look no further than the 2010 New Orleans Saints who traveled to Seattle in the playoffs, and left embarrassed.
With the aforementioned Saints playing Jacksonville and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing Indianapolis all three of the major players in the NFC South have winnable games. In order for the Falcons to ensure they can keep pace with the 2-1 Saints and Bucs they absolutely have to get the job done today.
Lets face it, there's little reason to think the Falcons can't execute against the Seahawks. They have more talent, better coaching and are simply the better team in every phase of the game. However, there's the old addage 'on any given Sunday', and that's what Atlanta will need to ensure they avoid.
Injuries will play a small role with the Falcons missing Jonathan Babineaux, Stephen Nicholas and Jason Snelling, while Seattle will be without Robert Gallery and it appears they'll also be missing Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell. These injuries hit the Seahawks harder than Atlanta, and I expect Mike Mularkey will take advantage of a depleted secondary to get big gains through the air.
Your Fox announcers today will be Craig Bolerjack and former Buccaneers safety, turned announcer John Lynch. Seattle are looking at some early showers, but should be clearing up by game time with a field temperature right around 65 degrees.
For the first time in 2011 NFL analysts are united in their opinion of an Atlanta Falcons game. Despite being on the road in a hostile environment there's no denying that the Falcons have a major edge when it comes to talent. Seattle are rebuilding... we think, it's not clear in what direction the Seahawks are headed, but for Atlanta their sights are clear- Superbowl or bust.
Peter Schrager of Fox Sports has little faith in the Falcons' offensive line, but still likes them to win
This season, Matt Ryan has been sacked 13 times and hit 21 times. Last season, he was sacked just 23 times. I wasn't buying Atlanta as a Super Bowl team in August, and I'm not buying them now. But I think they'll have their way with Seattle on Sunday.
Over on ESPN there was much less waxing about the game, and just picks. A unanimous eight analysts all pick Atlanta, the accuscore is picking them and fans are picking the Falcons. There's absolutely no faith in Seattle from the four letter network.
The story remains the same on CBS where everyone is also backing the Falcons.
The folks at Yahoo feel the same with Michael Silver, Jason Cole and Les Carpenter all favoring Atlanta.
So, all in all it's a red and black-out. My pick: The Falcons are able to take Seattle out to the woodshed as they demolish them on both sides of the ball. Tavaris Jackson will be on the run, and Michael Turner will run over them.
Atlanta 35 - Seattle 17
There comes a point in every season when every we finally begin to separate the real contenders from the rest of the pack. Teams like the Bills can start 3-0 only to fall flat on their faces and miss the playoffs, while in past years teams like the Chargers have started out slow and come roaring back in November and December.
The Falcons, who currently sit at 1-2, remain 4.5-point favorites in their road clash with the Seattle Seahawks, with the spread set at 39.5 points. If the Falcons can't win this one, they're in deep trouble to put it mildly. With the Bucs and Saints already having a leg up on Atlanta and a tough matchup against the Packers next week, the Falcons need to take care of business Sunday.
But a few underlying trends point to Atlanta doing just that. The Falcons are 10-2 in their last 12 games when favored by 3.5 points or more, and more importantly Mike Smith's team is 6-0 in its last six games against teams with losing records. While the loss in Tampa was tough, the Bucs were 10-6 last year and no pushover.
The Seahawks do possess some talented players. But losing to a team that lacks any real experience at several positions, most notably Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, is simply not something I foresee happening. As long as the Falcons can shut down the running game and force Tarvaris to throw the ball, I think this game will play right into Mike Smith's hands.
While Seattle's defense has performed well thus far in 2010, the Falcons are likely better than any previously faced for the 'Hawks. Michael Turner should rebound from his 20-yard performance last week, and if Sam "I can sometimes pass protect" Baker can keep Chris Clemons at bay, Atlanta will be 2-2.
And for us, a Falcons win means all is right with the world again. With their backs against the wall this week, I think they'll be able to come through.
This matchup, ladies and gentlemen, is not a given. After turning in a very lackluster performance against the Buccaneers, the Falcons will play a Seahawks team that doesn't quite rival the likes of Chicago and Philadelphia in terms of talent. Simply assuming the Falcons will toy with a hapless Seahawks defense Sunday, however, would be a mistake.
This defense might not seem worthy of being considered "underrated." Given Seattle's list of opponents over the first three games (San Francisco, Arizona, and Pittsburgh), the opposite could very well hold true. The team lacks any sort of big name stars and isn't known around the league to be a particularly fearsome defense.
But in this young 2011 season, the Seahawks have the No. 10 defense in the nation. With unheralded stars in the likes of Chris Clemons and Marcus Trufant, don't expect the Falcons simply to have a field day. Keep in mind, they are also playing at Seattle, notoriously one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
That said, the Falcons have way too much talent to not improve on last week's pathetic display of offensive prowess. This is probably a middle of the road defense when all is said and done, but by giving us a good performance this week the Falcons can instill some fantasy (and real-life) confidence in the rest of the league. Here's your start 'em/sit 'em, week four:
For those of you wondering where Roddy went, well we found him in full 2010-form last week as he hauled in nine catches for 140 yards. Though Trufant is a pretty underrated cornerback, not even Nnamdi could completely shut No. 84 down.
Though he has yet to practice this week while nursing a thigh injury, it does not appear serious.This is most likely a precautionary measure by the Falcons, very much similar to the way he was handled last season. In all likelihood, Roddy will be ready do to work in week four. He's chicken soup for the fantasy owner's soul.
Sure, he had probably the worst performance of his Falcons career last week: 11 carries for 20 yards. But last week was more like a trip to Bizzaro world than anything else for The Burner. Nothing could go right for the offense, Turner included.
But this week in practice, there has very much been a "back to basics" feeling amongst the coaching staff regarding the offense. Perhaps we'll see some more vintage Michael Turner in Seattle? Despite last week's flop, I'd still consider No. 33 an every-week starter until further notice.
numberFire Projections: 13.86 points (17.11 completions, 196.86 yards, 1.23 TDs, 0.85 INTs)
Though the offense has been pretty stagnant, Ryan has still managed to put up decent numbers: 330 yards, a touchdown and a pick isn't terrible by any means. He's never been a top tier fantasy QB, but he'll get the job done for you most weeks. That said, I'd be surprised if we didn't see some sort of big performance this week in Seattle. As I said before: too many weapons around Ryan.
Not trying to brag, but I expected a big performance out of Julio against Tampa and he finally gave us one. While he hasn't reached the end zone yet, he did eclipse the century mark for the first time in his young NFL career. An untimidating matchup with cornerback Brandon Browner should only spell more good news for No. 11. Start him.
Our kicker with the golden leg has yet to miss a field goal this season (knock on wood). There's no reason you shouldn't start him. Ever.
numberFire Projections: 8.65 points (15.80 points allowed, 1.99 turnovers, 2.05 sacks, 0.26 TDs)
If there's one week I'd feel comfortable with starting this group, it's this one. Tarvaris Jackson and Co. do not intimidate me whatsoever. A pretty strong defensive showing against Tampa Bay has me feeling better about these guys (at least for the coming week).
numberFire Projections: 6.82 points (4.43 recs, 48.81 yards, 0.32 TDs)
Not normally someone I'd recommend sitting, but I feel like this week is a poor matchup for Tony G. Both Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne are underrated linebackers, and Ryan may look to focus on another direction. Given his recent run of TDs it's hard for me to say no, but for this week I will.
While both Douglas and Rodgers have been valuable parts of the offense, neither has really established themselves as consistent contributors thus far. As for Snelling, he remains a non-practicer while nursing a concussion.
One of the few things that could derail a probable Falcons' victory on Sunday is a nasty visit by the injury bug. So it's no surprise fans in Atlanta were concerned with seeing no less than five vital players miss practice on Wednesday in the first injury report of the week. Meanwhile for Seattle they are seeing some injuries too, but nothing to the magnitude of the Falcons on Wednesday.
LB Stephen Nicholas (calf)- DNP
DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee)- DNP
CB Kelvin Hayden (hamstring- DNP
WR Roddy White (thigh)- DNP
RB Jason Snelling (concussion)- DNP
T Sam Baker (ankle)- Limited
LB Curtis Lofton (foot)- Limited
DE Cliff Matthews (non-injury)- Limited
G Robert Gallery (groin)- DNP
S Kam Chancellor (quad)- DNP
CB Byron Maxwell (ankle)- DNP
LB Matt McCoy (shoulder, head)- DNP
T Jarriel King (ankle)- Full
RB Michael Robinson (ankle)- Full
Headlining the Falcons list is WR Roddy White, who missed today with a thigh injury. Atlanta are known to rest White during the week as a precaution, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that this was the case today; I fully expect him to play this week. Things are worse for Stephen Nicholas and Jonathan Babineaux- we knew Babineaux would miss a few weeks due to his partially torn ACL, but Nicholas left the Bucs game due to injury and will likely miss this week also.
Meanwhile in Seattle they were missing several players, but outisde of starting safety Kam Chancellor they're really only missing OL and LB depth. This is definitely a scenario where the Falcons are missing far more vital pieces than the Seahawks in the lead-up to Sunday's game.
Even if Atlanta are without their full complement of players on today's injury report they still have more than enough weapons to get the W, but perhaps the road wont be quite as easy as it seemed to be a few days ago.
Last Sunday's game 16-13 loss to the Buccaneers was disappointing on several levels, fantasy performances included. While Matt Ryan eclipsed 300 yards passing for the second week in a row, he only threw for one touchdown and had three turnovers on the day. The defense/special teams came up with zero sacks and less than 100 return yards from Eric Weems. And, of course, there was Michael Turner's 11 carries for 20 yards.
Still, despite a few shortcomings this is an offense overflowing with talent. Both Roddy White and Julio Jones eclipsed 100 yards receiving with little fanfare. Tony Gonzalez caught his third TD pass in three weeks. Matt Bryant, automatic as ever, nailed both field goal attempts to stay perfect on the day.
With a relatively easy upcoming matchup against an underwhelming Seahawks defense, the Falcons should (*knock on wood*) get back on track next week. Imagine, if the guys upstairs could sober up for more than five minutes, we could really have something special!
Matt Ryan: 18.15 points (19.86 completions, 257.41 yards, 2.06 TDs, 0.56 INTs)
Michael Turner: 15.45 points (21.52 carries, 97.45 yards, 0.78 TDs)
Roddy White: 14.83 points (6.94 recs, 93.27 yards, 0.89 TDs)
Julio Jones: 6.02 points (3.79 recs, 56.81 yards, 0.08 TDs)
Harry Douglas: 3.24 points (1.68 recs, 22.98 yards, 0.16 TDs)
Tony Gonzalez: 7.53 points (4.43 recs, 49.11 yards, 0.44 TDs)
Matt Bryant: 7.56 points (1.43 FG, 2.70 XP)
Atlanta D/ST: 7.40 points (19.16 points against, 1.76 turnovers, 1.76 sacks, 0.19 TDs)
One player who'll make you look smart: Julio Jones
Likely matched up with journeyman Brandon Browner in coverage, Julio should hopefully keep his great play going after turning in his first NFL 100-yard game against the Bucs, and his 6'4 frame should (hopefully) receive more looks in the end zone going forward.
Despite Atlanta coming off a loss and playing in a hostile environment the betting community aren't putting much stock in Seattle's legendary 12th man to disrupt Sunday's game. Currently the Falcons are being favored by as much as 5.5 pts on the road. While this ostensibly equates to an 8.5 pt favorite in Vegas (home team normally gives three points) there's good reason for it, let's look inside the stats.
This line is a condemnation of Seattle's offense more than anything. The 31st ranked Seahawks attack has been very poor in 2011 as they are only 214.7 yards of total offense per game, while they are also 31st in scoring just 10 pts per game on average. Though Atlanta's defense has been lackluster thus far, there's not really much threat from Seattle's offense barring a complete meltdown.
On the other side of the ball the Seattle defense has been fairly bad also, which doesn't bode well when facing an Atlanta attack which featured two receivers combining for over 100 yards each last week. The Seahawks are allowing an exceptionally high 7.7 yards per pass attempt, which should allow Matt Ryan to move the ball easily.
Despite the concerns about the Seahawks offense the line has been set fairly high at as much as 40 pts. I'm fairly surprised bookies are willing to give the over/under this high. Based purely on the first three weeks of 2011 these two teams have combined for 30 pts on average. The rationale is that both team's defenses will let them down on Sunday, but I feel this is a very high mark to hit and by game day this line will be much closer. If you're looking to take the under you should probably take advantage of it sooner, rather than later.
When it's all said and done I think Atlanta wins this game handily. They simply have too many weapons for Seattle to deal with on offense, while on defense their pass rush should give Tavaris Jackson fits.
With the first three games on the Falcons schedule (Bears, Eagles, Bucs) all looking like tough games, the week four matchup with the Seahawks should be one of the more winnable games on a very difficult schedule. While this Seattle team may not be the most formidable on paper, they did make it to the playoffs and beat the Saints. With Pete Carroll once again looking to prove his team is legit, I wouldn't call this game a walk in the park just yet.
Record: 7-9, NFC West Champions, Lost to Bears in the divisional round of the playoffs
Last Meeting: Week 15, 2010 (Falcons won 34-18)
Notable Additions: WR Sidney Rice, TE Zach Miller, QB Tarvaris Jackson, OT Robert Gallery
Notable Losses: QB Matt Hasselbeck, S Jordan Babineaux, K Olindo Mare
So instead of Hasselbeck, this time around the Falcons will be facing an offense led by the enigmatic Tarvaris Jackson, who I best remember as the guy who fumbled Atlanta into the playoffs in 2008. Good memories.
Sure, they added a couple of very potent weapons in Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, along with attempting to shore up their porous O-line from last year. But honestly, if you don't have a QB that can get you the ball, what difference does it make? Although running quarterbacks have given the Falcons trouble in the past, Jackson has yet to do anything that proves him to be a legitimate passer in the NFL.
As for the defense, it remains largely unchanged from the one that ranked No. 27 in the league last season. Chris Clemons returns as one of the more formidable pass rushers in the league, and they have a good, young safety in Earl Thomas. Beyond that, however, the Seahawks defense is spotty at best.
For the Falcons, this will be a very similar situation to last season's matchup. Atlanta should be favored, and if the Falcons are of the caliber I (and hopefully most others) think they are, Ryan & Co. should be able to pick apart the Seattle defense without even needing much help from the defense.
There's been so much talk this preseason about the Falcons preparing to "open up" the offense and let Matt Ryan loose. Well, if you're in the mood for fireworks this upcoming matchup with the 'Hawks should be as good as any to see the air attack executed in full swing.
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