The Falcons and Giants will meet in MetLife Stadium this Sunday in a battle of winless teams. New York has been far closer to earning their first victory of the season than Atlanta, but oddsmakers think that it will be a close game. The Giants offense is built similarly to the Falcons — from the outside in. Daniel Jones, like Matt Ryan, doesn’t have great protection but has a bevy of receivers, tight ends, and running backs to get the ball to. The Falcons will have to play their best game yet to come out of East Rutherford with a win, so here are some of those critical matchups that could tilt the game either way.
Bradberry is one of the top corners in this league, and this will be the best cover man Calvin Ridley has faced this year. He notched what would’ve been a clutch interception in the Giants loss to the Washington Football Team last week, but he’s struggled in coverage regardless of the turnover. Terry McLaurin absolutely shredded him.
Ridley will likely get his because this defense as a whole isn’t very good. They’ve let up 57 points in the first two weeks of the season, which is the eighth-highest in the NFL. Ridley may not have a stellar game, but if all eyes are on him, the field will open up for Kyle Pitts. If Bradberry cannot keep up with Ridley, Adoree Jackson would get the nod, which should be music to Falcons fans’ ears.
Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan vs. Kyle Pitts
This is where Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith can hurt the Giants defense the most. Patrick Graham has taken responsibility for his defense’s lackluster performances the first two weeks, but Peppers and Ryan will have to corral Pitts somehow this week, not Graham.
The Giants have been torched over the middle of the field, specifically against tight ends. New York has allowed opposing tight ends to catch 14 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown. My first guess would be Ryan gets the matchup because of his superior coverage ability, but Peppers certainly matches up better with Pitts’ athletically. Either way, it’ll be an exciting matchup all game.
Matt Hennessey and Jalen Mayfield vs. Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence
Matt Hennessy next to Josh Andrews or another veteran guard wouldn’t be as bad as Matt Hennessy next to Jalen Mayfield. Though they both improved from Week 1 to Week 2, they are still playing at a well-below average level. The interior duo will have their hands full this week with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. The latter can be immovable at times in the run game, and the former is as good as any interior defender the pair has faced thus far.
The Falcons offensive line has struggled through two games, but the Giants defensive line as a whole isn’t as good as the other two they’ve faced. The strength just lies in the interior, so these two will have a big part in whether the Falcons offense succeeds or fails.
Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder vs. Dante Fowler
The Falcons lack of a pass rush could be credited to the offensive lines of the Eagles and Buccaneers. Both units are among the league’s best, but Atlanta’s pass rush still isn’t good by any (Steven) means. A thread of optimistic news is the Giants tackle duo of Thomas and Solder is by far the worst duo Dante Fowler and Steven Means have faced thus far.
Last week, Fowler notched his first sack of the season, a sack-fumble nonetheless. Even if it was more of a coverage sack, Fowler breaking the threshold is good for his confidence. He should be able to beat the pair of Thomas and Solder, but I can’t say the same for Means.
Falcons CBs vs. Giants WRs
The Falcons may be without their top cover man in A.J. Terrell, who is dealing with a concussion suffered in the second half of the Buccaneers game. Terrell has played outstanding this season; he ranks 10th among all corners with five targets in passer rating allowed through two games. If he can’t go, this secondary isn’t deep, and it could get ugly.
Fabian Moreau has given up some tough plays, but I think he’s played respectably and is a perfectly fine CB2. Isaiah Oliver has also played good football from the slot. The trio of Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard is underrated; however, if Daniel Jones doesn’t have time to throw, it won’t matter. If Terrell can’t go, this will be something the Giants certainly take advantage of.