Wednesday, August 9, 2017

2017 Atlanta Falcons Week 6-9 Preview

Week 6 Vs. Miami Dolphins (Oct. 15/ 1:00 p.m. ET CBS)

The Miami Dolphins were forced (desperate enough) to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement in the early weeks of training camp after Ryan Tannehill went down with another knee injury. Cutler is 34 and struggled to stay on the field last season with the Bears as he played in only five games before taking a job with Fox Sports as an analyst in the offseason.

Despite the messy quarterback situation, Miami enters 2017 having finished 10-6 last season and earning their first playoff berth since 2008. With some momentum and some solid playmakers on offense, the Dolphins will be looking for a defensive identity with veterans such as DE Cameron Wake (35-years-old), DT Ndamukong Suh (30-years-old) and safety Reshad Jones (29-years-old) getting long in the tooth.

MLB Lawrence Timmons, along with rookies defensive end Charles Harris and linebacker Raekwon McMillan were added to help keep the Dolphins improve an aging defensive unit that ranked 29th in the NFL for total yards allowed last season.

Look for the Falcons to take advantage of a leaky Dolphins’ defense and allow their offensive horses to run wild.

Week 7 @ New England Patriots (Oct. 22/ 8:30 p.m. ET NBC)

The Patriots stole Super Bowl LI from the Falcons. This is a game where formations, statistics, injuries or venue mean little.

The Patriots went into the offseason and got even more talented by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore and bringing in Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Additionally, perhaps the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, returns from his season-ending back injury.

The Falcons will want to prove (mostly to themselves) that they can beat the Patriots. This will be a swing game for the 2017 season. If the Falcons are able to beat the Patriots, the demons of last Super Bowl’s eve will be vanquished until the playoffs.

Should the Falcons lose this nationally televised rematch, it could send the team on a downward spiral over the second half of the season. The Patriots want to put the Falcons in their place and prove that they are the class of the NFL.

Expect a highly emotional war of a football game.

Week 8 @New York Jets (Oct. 29/ 1:00 p.m. ET FOX)

The Jets are a mess.

They don’t have a clear quarterback, running game, nor any legitimate receivers.

The Falcons will be coming off an emotional ball game against the team that beat them in the Super Bowl and a physical game against the Dolphins in week 6.

This is what we call a “trap game deluxe.” The statistics and names on the respective rosters suggest this should be a rout in favor of the men in red and black. But, it’s the NFL and the Jets are at home.

New York does have a front seven, bringing the possibility that the Falcons could play their worst game of the season in week 8. Look for the Falcons to either narrowly escape or drop a huge setback mid-season.

Week 9 @ Carolina Panthers (Nov. 5/ 1:00 p.m. ET FOX)

The Panthers look to regain their 2015 form when they won the NFC South and made a Super Bowl appearance.

Beating a road weary Falcons team in their third straight road game can make the Panthers relevant again.

The Falcons will look to again attack the Panthers hole-filled secondary after torching the Josh Norman-less unit for 780 passing yards in two games last season.

The Panthers added little to the unit that was ranked 29th in total passing yards allowed in 2016, although they did resign Captain Munnerlyn back from the Vikings. Munnerlyn is the Panthers’ all-time leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns with five.

The Falcons need this game, as they try to gain control of the division race and make their push toward making the playoffs. Panthers could be in a wrong place, wrong time situation by the end of this day.

Jeremy Johnson: @Clark_Kent_75

Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 Atlanta Falcons Week 1-4 Preview

Week 1 @ Chicago Bears (Sep. 10/ 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX)

The Falcons head north to battle with the Chicago Bears who were less than impressive last season. They finished 2016 with only 3 wins, all coming at home. The Bears do not have much to be excited about. With the release of WR Alshon Jeffrey, and the cutting of QB Jay Cutler, the Bears seem to be going into rebuild mode. It will be interesting to see if first round draft pick Mitch Trubisky makes the start at quarterback, but I would not put money on it. Expect to see QB Mike Glennon under center for Chicago.

The one shining light coming from the Bears franchise is RB Jordan Howard. Dude can play. He did not get as much recognition last season, considering the other RB talent in the league, and the fact that the Bears went 3-13. Nonetheless, he had over 1,300 rushing yards to finish 2nd in the NFL behind Ezekiel Elliott. The Falcons need to contain him. If they don’t, this might not be a blowout.

It is worth noting that the Falcons have not won at Soldier Field since ’83. They have also lost to the Bears in their last two meetings. Just something to worry about if you are a superstitious type.   

Week 2 vs. Green Bay Packers (Sep. 17/ 8:30 p.m. ET / FOX)

The Green Bay Packers come back to Atlanta in an attempt to redeem their horrid performance on January 22 that lead to a dominating Falcons’ victory for the NFC crown.

We should see a stronger opponent in the Packers this time around. First off, they are going to be ticked off; I mean I totally would be. Getting shut out in the first half of the NFC Championship is embarrassing.

Green Bay had a slew of injuries last season, much of them being in the secondary. With the addition of TE Martellus Bennett, the burden of playmaking will rest a little less heavy on QB Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders now.

Nevertheless, DQ and the Falcons have the Packers number. As long as the defensive line keeps #12 in the pocket, his playmaking abilities will be limited. Look for the game to be similar to the Week 8 matchup last season—a 33-32 win by Atlanta.

Week 3 @ Detroit Lions (Sep. 24/ 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX)

The Detroit Lions had a 9-7 record last season and made it to the postseason for the second time in 3 years. The Lions were a good team in 2016, but not a great team. QB Matthew Stafford is certainly a star, but the same cannot be said about the Detroit Lions as a whole.

The fact of the matter is, the Lions did not beat a playoff team last season. Go back and look. Furthermore, 5 of their 7 losses came from teams that all made the playoffs.

If the Lions cannot compete with playoff caliber teams, then the matchup against the Falcons will certainly be tough for them. They do not have a great run game, and their best receiver is Mega…. Golden Tate? Marvin Jones? One of those.

I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say the game will be close. After all, each of their losses last season were close games. Say what you want (I already have) but the Lions are certainly fighters. Look forward to a physical, and fun game to watch.

Week 4 vs. Buffalo Bills (Oct. 1/ 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX

Bills Mafia will be traveling to the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first game of October. I would not set a high ceiling for the Bills because, like the Lions, Buffalo had trouble beating playoff teams last year. However, they did shut out the Patriots, which is certainly impressive.

QB Tyrod Taylor and RB LeSean McCoy are definitely players the Falcons’ defense needs to watch. McCoy can carve up defenses like it is nothing. If the Falcons aren’t careful, this game could mirror the 2016 game against the Eagles. Tyrod Taylor may not be an elite QB, but he is a scrappy, dual-threat player and can put up points if you let your guard down.  

Bottom line: if the Falcons come to play, they come out with a W. If they let their guard down…upset alert.