Falcons

DirtyBird Forecast: Episode 5: It’s a battle for life in Pittsburgh

Find a person who thought both the Falcons and the Steelers would be in last place going into week 5, and I’ll show you a someone who doesn’t exactly know if he’s a Saints or Ravens fan. The talent of both of these teams has been wasted the first four weeks, making Sunday a must-win for each team.

At first glance, it’s easy to see the similarities between these two. They are led by high quality quarterbacks surrounded by a host of weapons. The Falcons have their superstar receiver Julio Jones paired with a budding star in Calvin Ridley. The Steelers have the same makeup with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Each team has their own share of issues in the secondary for separate reasons. Pittsburgh never had a secondary, and Atlanta’s has been decimated by injuries. As you might imagine, these teams haven’t been a part of many grind-it-out ball games.

Where there are some differences is in the run game. Atlanta will feature their dynamic duo in the backfield of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, while the Steelers are missing Le’Veon Bell, meaning James Connor will get the bulk of the touches. The Falcons haven’t been fantastic running the ball, but part of that has to do with the amount of success they have had through the air. The Steelers ground game has disappeared since Connor ran for 135 yards in week one against the Browns. Pittsburgh is currently 28th in the league in rush yards per game.

That has the opportunity to change this weekend, as Grady Jarrett will miss Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle. The Falcons will use a combination of Jack Crawford and Terrell McClain in his absence, but they don’t have anyone else near the caliber of Jarrett that can play on the interior defensive line. It would be wise for Pittsburgh to go back to their organizational roots and play a little ground and pound football on Sunday.

However, that’s far from the way the Steelers play anymore. They are going to air it out, and they are going to test this Atlanta secondary. And frankly, who can blame them. The Cincinnati Bengals receivers had a field day against Atlanta cornerbacks. Tyler Boyd made Desmond Trufant look like a rookie for the majority of the game, while A.J Green, was well, A.J Green. Even John Ross pitched in with a touchdown reception. And if Atlanta thought that was bad, they are in for a rude awakening in Pittsburgh.

It is worth mentioning, though, that this will be the first time all season the same group of players will start back-to-back weeks in the secondary for Atlanta. It’s been a tough transition due to injuries, with several guys playing in spots they have never played before, but they are going to improve, and it should be noticeable as early as this week.

No, the Falcons will not give up 30 points every game from here on out. That’s why I think this one finishes a little more low-scoring than people expect. Yes, this matchup features two high-powered machines on the offensive sides, but these defenses have heard enough about how bad they are. Eventually, they are going to show some pride and start making some stops. Points will be scored, but take the under if you’re a betting man.

For the past three weeks, I’ve predicted nail-biters, and they have all come down to the final possession. Unfortunately, the Falcons have been on the wrong end of two of those games, and that could easily happen again here in Pittsburgh. Two teams with Super Bowl aspirations fighting for their lives in week five. It’s not ideal, but it’s going to be fun.

Since the last two weeks I gave the Falcons the small edge at home and they lost, I’ll give the Steelers a slight edge here on their turf in hope of the same effect.

Steelers 28, Falcons 27

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DirtyBird Forecast: Episode 5: It’s a battle for life in Pittsburgh

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