The Falcons and Rams are coming off equally demoralizing losses. The former blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to their most hated rivals after dominating for much of the game, and the latter was embarrassed on national television in the NFL’s season opener, as the Bills controlled the entire game from the opening snap onward. Now, the two teams will meet in SoFi Stadium as the Rams open as 10.5-point favorites, and rightfully so. Atlanta will have a significant disadvantage traveling across the country on three days less rest than LA. Plus, Sean McVay’s team is superior in nearly every facet; the rosters just aren’t even close. So, where can the Falcons take advantage of the Rams?
The Offensive Line
The biggest weakness exposed in Week 1 was the Rams’ offensive line. McVay’s offense averaged just 1.9 yards before contact on running plays and allowed a 38% pressure rate on Matthew Stafford, 19 of his 50 dropbacks. That is an environment that is nearly impossible to be successful in. Part of the reason for those shortcomings is the new faces along the offensive line.
Left tackle Joseph Noteboom entered the 2022 season as a full-time starter for the first time in his career, and Von Miller utterly dominated him. But he wasn’t even the worst out of the bunch; David Edwards also had a terrible outing against Buffalo. Overall, the Rams’ offensive struggles fall on the offensive line, McVay’s gameplan, Stafford’s tendency to hold onto the ball, and his lack of mobility.
Stafford and McVay should’ve known their offensive line was outmatched at halftime. There were no adjustments to try and get the ball out quicker. And the Falcons shouldn’t expect a similar lapse of judgment from one of the greatest offensive minds in the game.
If the Falcons can keep the Rams’ offense out of rhythm and behind the chains, they stand a chance in this game. Grady Jarrett will have to be as disruptive as he was in Week 1. He was nearly unstoppable against the Saints, finishing the afternoon with 1.5 sacks. Dean Pees’ defense looked distinctly different in the opener compared to last season. The Falcons’ defense posted four team sacks and pressured Jameis Winston most of the game. Atlanta stifled Saints’ drives with pressure and sacks, exceeding their best in-game sack total in two seasons.
The Falcons will have to once again stop one of the better rushing teams in the league to keep the opposing offense in third-and-long situations. Atlanta’s front four isn’t even close to as talented as Buffalo’s, but what they lack in personnel, Pees makes up for in exotic looks. It will be difficult to out-scheme McVay, but if the Falcons can stifle the run game, they have a shot.