Monday, August 1, 2016

Falcons Schedule Preview (Weeks 9-13)

By Raekwon Gilbert

Week 9 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Nov. 3 / 8:25 p.m. ET / NFL Network)

 Divisional games always bring out a little more in players; and that should be the case for the Falcons and Bucs in week nine. Adding the fact that this game will be on Thursday Night Football, expect the emotion to be even higher. Last season the Falcons were 0-2 against the Bucs and it should be safe to say that team will try to turn the tables around in 2016.

Armed with a young, ambitious offense, led by second year quarterback Jameis Winston, the Bucs are slowly turning the time by developing young players and building around others like running back Doug Martin, wide out Mike Evans, linebacker Lavonte David, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Though the talent around Tampa Bay is evident, they still haven't had the chance to put everything together and become an actual contender in the NFC South.

Last season, the Falcons couldn't get a win against Tampa Bay because they couldn't capitalize on offense by scoring when the opportunity approached them. If Atlanta can find a way to consistently attack Tampa in the run and passing game, victory should be in their horizon.

Week 10 @ Philadelphia Eagles (Nov. 13 / 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX)

Many teams in the NFL don't get the recognition they deserve because of the antics of a few players, or, the troubles within the front office involving their head coach. All of these things have played a factor in how fans view the Philadelphia Eagles and it truly has had an effect on the team's play.

Last season, the Eagles were seconds away from beating the Falcons until safety Ricardo Allen helped seal the win with an late-game interception. This truly sums up the Eagles' season. With a quarterback battle, the departure of running back Demarco Murray, and the difficult plan to balance out a strong salary-cap has taken away from the winning factor of the team in my views, but they still show dominance in some areas.

Along with players like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Connor Barwin, and safety Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia has an array of players who will shine on the defensive side of the ball.

Regardless of who Philly picks to be their quarterback, the Falcons main goal in week 10 should be getting after the quarterback. Rookie Carson Wentz is reportedly having a hard time adjusting to the playbook and defensive reads, which is an opportunity for Atlanta to capitalize on.

Last season, Matt Ryan throw for 298 along with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan will have to protect the ball better and try make the best throws down field. If Atlanta can somehow minimize their mistakes on offense and create pressure on the quarterback then they will win.

Week 11 (BYE WEEK)

Week 12 vs. Arizona Cardinals (Nov. 27 / 1:00 p.m. ET / FOX)

It isn't a known secret that the Arizona Cardinals are the worst team for Matt Ryan to play against. Ryan averages 2.6 interceptions per game against Arizona in the past 4 years. Not to mention that their defense will still continue to reign over the NFC west with players like safety Tyrann Mathieu, linebacker Chandler Jones, defensive Calais Campbell, and cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Atlanta's offensive line has built well around newcomer Alex Mack and the emergence of great play from both tackles, Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews, but Arizona has been known to breakdown offensive lines easily with their pass-rushing attack.

Week 13 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 4 / 1:00 p.m. ET / CBS)

The Chiefs may be the Falcons most equally matched opponent this season.  One or two plays could make the difference in this game.

Led by linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry, Kansas City's defense is among the league's best, but there are flaws which Atlanta can expose. Built to play around a full 3-4 defense, the Chiefs were put under pressure when asked to become a nickel or dime defense. However, with the stay of young defensive backs, that will be forced into play. I don't think they will be able to compete with Atlanta when put into open areas.

On the flip side, Atlanta still has issues to solve at the guard positions and that could be a area of attack for Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe. All three players have the talent to control the line of scrimmage and dominate if Atlanta doesn't get on a roll early.

This could also be a perfect game for someone like wide out Justin Hardy to come in and control the slot against others. Safeties Ron Parker and Eric Berry won't be coming down often to play man to man with Hardy, but that doesn't mean he won't have his work cut out. This may be the most interesting game of the season for Atlanta.

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