Why not start out with the obvious. Wes Schweitzer will fill the shoes of Andy Levitre for the remainder of the season. In all honesty, I am not too worried about the situation as long as Schweitzer can stay healthy. The 2016 6th round pick started last year, and while he was replaceable, there are much worse options around the league.
It will be a bit of a drop off from Andy Levitre, but the Falcons should be able to work around it. His first test will be a stiff one; The Saints defensive front has talent across the board. Atlanta will not win this one if New Orleans can put consistent pressure on Matt Ryan. Schweitzer will be a topic of discussion on Sunday, and it will probably be best if his name is mentioned sparingly over the course of the game.
For the sake of not listing all the Falcons replacements; Duke Riley and Damontae Kazee have to play like they have been here before, facing Drew Brees and an explosive supporting cast.
Michael Thomas is beginning to reach the elite category of wide receivers. If he was not already there after his first two seasons. Sure, playing with Drew Brees doesn’t hurt, but Thomas has the talent to be as good as any receiver in the league and possibly a Hall-of-Famer.
The Falcons still have a lot of athletes in the secondary that will make it tough on Thomas, but a good day is holding him around 100 yards. This is his stat line through two weeks: 28 receptions, 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. It takes a team effort to guard him for sixty minutes, which will be even tougher for a team missing their best defenders.
Vic Beasley Jr.
Beasley needs to start finding more success as a pass rusher if he wants to remain with the team past his current contract. Atlanta does not need him to lead the NFL in sacks again, but with limited pass rushers on the roster, they need him to at least be a quality #2 behind Takk McKinley. There is a good chance McKinley doesn’t even play this weekend, which will put even more weight on Beasley’s shoulders.
With quality protection, Drew Brees is going to shred a Falcons defense missing Deion Jones and Keanu Neal. If McKinley is unable to suit up, the Falcons are going to be forced to mix up their pressures, but it’s hard seeing them being very effective without a solid effort from Beasley.
A lot of this is dependent on the offensive line, but the running game is what makes the offense click. Coleman is likely going to be the lead back again with Devonta Freeman sidelined. His electric display was a primary reason Atlanta was able to control the game against Carolina.
It was a tail of two stories versus the Saints last year. In the Falcons win, they were able to overcome three turnovers in large part because of their willingness to pound the rock. They ran the ball 37 times for 132 yards. A few weeks later, that total was down to 67 yards in a losing effort on the road. You have to think a Falcons win entails a heavy dose of Tevin Coleman.
Atlanta is going to find out just how good De’Vondre Campbell is over these 8+ weeks without Deion Jones. My guess is we find out he is pretty darn valuable. Not only is Campbell a sure-tackler, he has the versatility to guard both tight ends and running backs while also contributing as a pass rusher.
The pass rushing will likely have to wait with Jones on the pine, but were are going to see Campbell all over the field in this one. Obviously, one of his responsibilities is going to be finding a way to slow down Alvin Kamara. It will be a challenging task, but one that I think Campbell is fully prepared for.