Saturday, July 30, 2016

Falcons Schedule Preview (Weeks 5-8)

by Alphonso Thomas

Week 5 @ Denver Broncos (Oct. 9 / 4:05 p.m. ET / FOX)

(USA Today)

The Atlanta Falcons face the Superbowl champion Denver Broncos in week five of the 2016 season. While the Broncos accomplished a major feat last year, don’t be too quick to count the Falcons out of this one.

The Broncos lost key contributors from last season’s championship team, including linebacker Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson, solid backup QB Brock Osweiler, and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. These losses will provide a major obstacle for the team to overcome if they wish to continue their dominance and success from last season.

The interesting match-up for this game will be the Falcons’ potent offense vs. Denver’s stout defense. If Matt Ryan and company are able to outplay Denver’s D, Mark Sanchez and the offense may have a tough time keeping up.

Week 6 @ Seattle Seahawks (Oct. 16 / 4:25 p.m. ET / FOX)

The Falcons will wrap up a two-game road trip in one of the toughest stadiums in the NFL, CenturyLink Field. “The 12th Man” will undoubtedly be in attendance with enough noise to rock the entire stadium, which is one reason why the Seahawks have only lost four games at home over the past three seasons.

Usually the retirement of a great player like running back Marshawn Lynch brings a sense of relief when playing the former player’s team the following season. However his replacement, Thomas Rawls, may be just as much of a defensive nuisance as Lynch was. Rawls accounted for 906 total yards from scrimmage last year and five touchdowns. The Falcons’ revamped, young group of linebackers will certainly have a task on their hands with Rawls in the backfield. It will also be interesting to see if tight end Jimmy Graham will prosper in his second year with the Seahawks, and if so, how Atlanta’s  young defense counters the playmaker.

Week 7 vs. San Diego Chargers (Oct. 23 /4:05 p.m. ET / FOX)

The San Diego Chargers come to town in what will be the Falcons’ third game against AFC West opponents. Led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, the Chargers are one of the mysteries of the AFC. They have great players such as Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates  and wide receiver Keenan Allen, but are never able to capitalize on those assets. This year, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and former Falcons safety Dwight Lowery aim to help San Diego with their recent winning troubles.

Offensively, the Chargers have the talent to compete with anyone. Phillip Rivers is a pro bowl caliber quarterback, running back Melvin Gordon should shake the rookie jitters and return to dominant form this year, Antonio Gates has been a top-five tight end for years and Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin can easily produce from the wide out position.

The Chargers defense ranked 20th in the league in total defense in 2015. Even with the defensive additions of Dwight Lowery, rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Casey Hayward, it will be tough for them to put a cap on Atlanta’s offense. It is almost certain that how well the Falcons’ defense steps up to the more than capable Chargers’ offense decides this game.

Week 8 vs. Green Bay Packers (Oct. 30 / 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX)

It’s safe to say that the Green Bay Packers have had the Falcons’ number over the past few years. Over the past five matchups, the Packers have walked away with four wins, with the lone loss coming back in November of 2010.

Green Bay boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers, who has a slew of weapons to throw to, and could quite honestly take an average Joe off of the street and make him look like a top ten receiver in the NFL. This year he will get one of his favorite targets in wide receiver Jordy Nelson back, as well as a healthy Randall Cobb.

However, Rodgers—like any other quarterback—plays his worst ball when he is hit. The Falcons’ pass rush will have to show up in order for the Falcons to stand a chance. It would also be nice to see Desmond Trufant mark this game with a great performance proving that he is well deserving of a big payday after the season.

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