Falcons vs. Titans
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Line: Falcons -5
The Falcons come back home for their second matchup with the AFC South after falling to the Colts on the road last week. The Titans are coming off an ugly loss themselves, losing in what was an unwatchable Thursday night contest against the Jaguars.
It’s not ideal scheduling for the Falcons, who will face a hungry team looking to redeem themselves following an embarrassing loss on national television. However, if the Titans want to do that, they are going to need Marcus Mariotta to be much better than he has been so far this season. He has yet to throw an interception but has been beyond lackluster in the playmaking department. If the Falcons can stop this Derrick Henry led rushing attack, they should be primed to move to 2-0 at home.
Speaking of interceptions, Matt Ryan is going to have to start avoiding them for the Falcons to pick up any type of week-to-week momentum. He’s already thrown six – one less than he threw all of last year.
A loss might be the writing on the wall for Dan Quinn. Even with a couple of brutal injuries to key players, falling to 1-3 with the Seahawks, Rams, and Saints looming would be about as horrid of a start one could have imagined for the Falcons. Arthur Blank didn’t dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money to watch the postseason from the couch. The team’s performance this week in a must-win game against a mediocre Titans team will be very telling whether or not Quinn’s message has become stale in the locker room.
MAKE MARCUS MARIOTTA BEAT YOU
This one is simple: take away the Titans running attack, and the Falcons will win the game. Despite what people want to say about last week, the Falcons did a pretty good job keeping Marlon Mack at bay, as the Colts only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Unfortunately, most of those yards came on the final drive, and Indianapolis was able to put the game on ice. Jacoby Brissett led the Colts to a win behind a masterful performance and benefitted from several penalties that extended drives. Marcus Mariotta doesn’t have that capability in him. He’s the definition of a game manager. If the Falcons key in on Derrick Henry; the rest will take care of itself – even without Keanu Neal in their secondary.
THE FALCONS WIDE RECEIVERS VS. THE TITANS SECONDARY
This is the matchup to watch. The Falcons have the best trio of wide receivers in the league. The Titans counter with a fantastic trio of corners themselves and a Pro-Bowl safety in Kevin Byard. Atlanta was finally able to get their running game going against the Colts, but I don’t expect them to have the same success versus Tennessee. It is going to be up to these receivers finding space, and of course, Matt Ryan limiting his mistakes. His decision making thus far has been mind-boggling for a player with so much experience. Julio Jones has a touchdown in seven straight games – the longest active streak in the NFL but look for Calvin Ridley to get involved early and often. After only receiving two targets last week, Dirk Koetter spoke on how they have to work on getting him more consistently involved in the offense.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
This is a key in every NFL game, but it is especially true in this matchup. At home, the Falcons should be able to take care of business against the Titans – as long as they protect the football. Matt Ryan, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the last three seasons at limiting turnovers, is on pace for 32 interceptions this season. When did Jameis Winston become the QB of the Falcons?
Anyways, because of that, Atlanta is -4 in the turnover margin. The Titans have been one of the best teams at protecting the football, turning it over only once all season (fumble). Mariotta isn’t a playmaker, but he will take care of the ball. The Falcons need to make sure they do the same, and they will be just fine.
Honorable mention: Dan Quinn’s failures against AFC teams
I talked about this last week, and the Falcons lost again to an AFC opponent. They are now 1-8 in their previous nine AFC matches and have lost their last five in a row. That can’t happen this week in what is a critical game against the Titans.
This is where desperation has to kick in for the players and the coaches. For the most part, next year is not guaranteed for them. If the Falcons fall to 1-3, heads will start to role quick. It might begin with a player, but eventually, Quinn will be on the streets looking for another job. I’m not ready to give up yet. I still believe this team has some fight in them, and they showed it in the second half against the Colts. But it’s time for Matt Ryan and this offense to play a complete game, and for the defense to look much more discipline. This is an extremely winnable game – one the Falcons have to come away with – and they will.
Falcons 28, Titans 20