The Atlanta Falcons are looking to avoid an 0-4 start, something that hasn’t happened since 1999. To do this, they will need to hurdle one of the NFL’s best passing offenses and a mountain of injuries. Despite being only Week 4, it’s pretty evident how important this game is regarding the outlook for the rest of the season. Only one team in NFL history has started 0-4 and made the postseason, the 1992 Chargers.
Can the Falcons overcome a mountain of injures?
The Falcons have a long list of players who are both questionable and officially ruled out. Early Saturday morning, it was confirmed that they will be without Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. This adds to an already depleted secondary. Darqueze Dennard has been placed on injured reserve, and rookie AJ Terrell is still sitting on the COVID-19 list. In addition to Neal and Allen, the Falcons are also without Takk Mckinley, who is suffering from a groin injury.
Takk McKinley has even ruled out to play on Monday. Two weeks in a row the #Falcons defense will not have Takk.
— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) October 3, 2020
The defensive secondary has been the nucleus of the Falcons’ demise this season. Even with a healthy lineup, this game was always going to be a shootout. Against the Saints, Aaron Rodgers threw for 283 yards and three scores. It was also his second time posting above a 120 quarterback rating this season. To make it worse, this was without his prime target Davante Adams.
When the Falcons give up an average 350 yards a game and an average QB rating of 109, it doesn’t matter who Rodgers is throwing to. He will get his due. However, the Packers have to account for injures of their own. Allen Lazard underwent surgery this week and is out indefinitely. He took over for the injured Adams and had 149 yards on six catches. Adams is not expected to play again this week, either.
The Falcons will also be without kicker Younghoe Koo. Koo suffered a groin injury during pregame warmups against Chicago. While he did play in Week 3, he missed two costly kicks — a field goal and extra point. Those four points ended up deciding the outcome of the game. Elliot Fry was signed as a replacement.
On a positive note, the Falcons will see Kendall Sheffield in action for the first time in 2020. He has been out due to a foot injury. In addition to Sheffield, Jordan Miller also makes his return after completing his four-game suspension. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage are all expected to play Monday night as well.
Can the offense get back on track?
Week 3 saw the Falcons put on their worst offensive showing of the season. Outside of the initial 63-yard play to open up the game, Ryan only totaled 175 yards. However, it was expected that the offense would take a step back. Julio Jones never suited up, and Russell Gage exited the game with a concussion. This left Ryan with only Ridley and a handful of practice squad players to throw to.
The lack of trust between quarterback and receivers was pretty evident as Ryan stared down Ridley the entire game, targeting him 13 times. He ended the day with 238 yards and a touchdown, and his 67.7 quarterback rating was his worst since Week 7 of 2019 against the Rams.
On paper, Ridley’s five catches for 110 yards looks nice. However, in actuality, he disappeared for a majority of the contest. After Ryan connected with him for 63 yards on the opening play, he only totaled 57 yards on four catches. Without your first and third receivers, those numbers aren’t enough to carry the offense.
The Falcons have the ability to put up big numbers. With Jones and Gage slated to make a return, this will keep Green Bay on their heels. The Packers’ defense is also 30th in the league when it comes to opponent’s QB rating, allowing QBs to complete 70 percent of their passes, resulting in a 113.4 rating. With a nearly healthy offensive lineup, there is no reason to believe this Falcons’ offense should struggle to keep up with Green Bay.
Will the Falcons run defense contain Aaron Jones?
With the Packers missing Allen Lazard and Davante Adams, Aaron Jones will be leaned on heavily. The past two weeks have seen him total over 230 yards with an average of seven yards per carry. He is also effective in the passing game with 12 targets and 85 yards in those two games.
The Falcons give up about 4.5 yards per carry and 113 yards per game. With a depleted receiving group, it’s likely that Green Bay will work through Jones to gash Atlanta’s defense.
The Falcons did do an excellent job containing the Bears’ rushing attack. Combined, neither Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery posted a total over 70 yards. Atlanta did, however, let up a 45-yard scramble by Trubisky.
In Week 1, the Falcons’ defense didn’t allow a Seattle runner to carry for over 30 yards. Russell Wilson’s quarterback scrambles were the team’s most effective run plays, as he ended the day with only 29 yards on the ground.
The Falcons also were able to hold Ezekiel Elliott to less than 90 yards. It is uncertain if this was due to the Cowboys playing from behind and in need of big plays or if the run defense stood its ground altogether. However, Elliott’s numbers could’ve been a lot better had the Cowboys not been in an obvious passing situation.
Can Todd Gurley replicate the same success from Week 3?
Gurley has yet to have the breakout game that we are used to seeing out of him in the past. He did have a relatively successful day for Atlanta against Chicago, totaling 14 catches for 80 yards. His 5.7 yards per carry makes you wonder why Dirk Koetter abandoned the run late in the game. The Falcons passed on six of their last nine plays before Chicago finally took the lead. Each fell incomplete, failing to waste any clock.
Maybe Gurley could finally post over 100 yards. The Green Bay defense allows over 5.5 yards per carry and 115 yards per game. However, even though the Packers let up an average of 115 yards per game, no single runner has been able to post over 60 yards on their own. It’s always been as a unit.
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