ESPN’s X-Factors for Falcons – Jaguars in London

NFL: SEP 17 Packers at Falcons

The Falcons and Jaguars will square off across the pond on Sunday morning. Atlanta is coming off a brutal loss in Detroit as the Lions dominated in all facets of the game. Jacksonville is coming off an equally disappointing game, but beat themselves more than anything. What will be the difference in London? ESPN’s x-factors is somewhere to start.

Offensive rhythm. The Falcons have been without rhythm for the majority of the first three games of the season. They have scored three points and gained 167 yards total in the first quarter this season, accentuating Atlanta’s issues at the start of games. The talent level is there — that’s without question with six first-round picks across the offense (three on the line, three at skill positions) — and if Atlanta can find a way to be offensively effective in the first half, it should solve a lot of the Falcons’ issues.

Tight end Kyle Pitts. The player with the nickname “The Unicorn” has been more of an enigma this season (and most of last season). Coach Arthur Smith described Pitts as “one of the most deceptively fast guys you’ll ever watch run,” and having Pitts involved in the offense is paramount to potential success. He has 17 targets (5.7 per game) and nine catches (three per game). If Atlanta gets him more involved, it could space out the rest of the offense. — Rothstein

Starting fast is something that hasn’t happened in 2023 for the Falcons. All three games have featured minimal offensive production in the first halves, and that cannot continue to happen. An offensive rhythm begins with a game plan and the execution of that game plan. Arthur Smith needs to get his playmakers the ball early and often.

Linebackers Josh Allen and Travon Walker. The pass rush has to do … something. Anything. It was ineffective against Houston’s backup offensive line (no sacks and only four QB hits on 30 dropbacks). Allen and Walker have to start producing consistently, and getting after Ridder (12 sacks in three games) would be a good start.

Scoring early. The Jaguars haven’t scored a first-half touchdown in their past two games. Getting into the end zone in the first frame against a Falcons team that has its own offensive issues early (two first-half TDs all season) could jumpstart a sluggish Lawrence. — DiRocco

If there were ever a ‘get-right’ game for the Jaguars pass rush, it would be this Falcons offensive line, who has struggled to keep Desmond Ridder clean. Granted, the same can be said for the Falcons’ offensive line facing a pedestrian pass rush.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


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