Matt Ryan eclipses 400 yards passing
Another shootout at Mercedes-Benz stadium? Get used to it. The Bengals might not come off as a team that is involved in many high-scoring affairs, but every one of their games has had at least 52 points scored in it. I expect that number to be passed in this one behind a high-powered offense in Atlanta and a faltering defense.
Eventually, Dan Quinn will find the right combination of guys defensively to weather the storm. However, that won’t happen overnight. It is going to take weeks for some of these reserves to adjust to their new roles. Hell, some of these guys weren’t even on the team a month ago. Andy Dalton may not be Drew Brees, but he is talented enough and has the weapons to put up some points. The Bengals might sniff 30 in this one.
That means the only way for the Falcons to win is if they put up some video game numbers offensively. Good thing they have the personnel to do that every week, and Steve Sarkisian is in a groove. The Falcons have scored nine straight touchdowns in the red zone. Matt Ryan has accounted for nine scores over the last two weeks, but he has yet to reach the 400 yard mark. What a shame. He gets there this week on a defense that allowed 376 yards passing to Joe Flacco.
Tyler Eifert catches for over 100 yards
Eifert is an incredibly talented athlete at the tight-end position. Unfortunately, injuries have hindered his progression over his career, but he is back healthy this season, and will record his first receiving game of 100 yards since October 30th, 2016.
The two areas where the Falcons miss Deion Jones and Keanu Neal the most is covering backs and tight ends. The last two weeks, we have seen running backs total for 29 receptions and over 225 yards against the Falcons. Atlanta has to address that, and they will on Sunday. With more attention to the backs coming out of the backfield, Eifert will have a little more breathing room than usual, resulting in his first 100 yard game in almost two years.
Damontae Kazee is the best player on the defense
At this point, I don’t even consider this a bold statement. Falcons fans should already be plenty familiar with Kazee as he has taken over for Keanu Neal since he went down with a torn ACL in week one. In his first live action this season, he forced a key interception. An unfortunate display of discipline led him to being ejected in the first half against the Panthers, but Kazee bounced back with another quality performance versus the Saints.
The Falcons might be missing arguably their four best defenders in this one, that is, if Takkarist McKinley is unavailable again on Sunday. They will be without Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and Deion Jones for sure, who are all on Injured Reserve. That means Kazee will quickly have to adjust to a leader’s role on this defense, and I’m fully confident in him doing so.
Over the course of these final fourteen weeks, Kazee’s full range of abilities will be on display. He’s a physical safety that has no problem coming up into the box and delivering a blow. His coverage skills are also above average, as he was a true ball hawk in college, recording 15 total interceptions over his junior and senior seasons at San Diego State. We have yet to see him pick off a pass in the NFL. That changes this weekend against Andy Dalton, who has already thrown five interceptions this year, including four last week.