The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a difficult loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted and just like the Vikings they had a big lead at halftime. The Falcons will be looking to not be penalized so much as they had 16 against the Colts and many of these penalties extended drives for the Colts. This week in practice Dan Quinn brought in a full crew of officials to help reduce the penalty issues. The Falcons are also dealing with injuries as safety Keanu Neal is out for the remainder of the season. Quinn brought in two safeties early this week for workouts, but ultimately signed safety Jamal Carter off of the practice squad to help take over Neal’s spot. Offensively the Falcons have two running backs that received concussions last week. Kenjon Barner has officially ruled out for Sunday’s game with a concussion while Ito Smith has been cleared for Sunday.
In practice this week, both Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison were active with the running backs. It will be interesting on seeing who will be the 3rd string back with Barner out. Ollison would make sense on because it is the big back and is the third and short situation back. Offensively the Falcons need to start better. In the Colts game last week, the Falcons offense didn’t come to life until the 2nd half. Also Matt Ryan needs to limit his interceptions. Ryan threw another red zone interception and once again Luke Stocker was the target. Stocker was covered pretty well and Ryan would of had to of made a perfect throw just for Stocker to catch it. Also the Falcons need to continue to get Devonta Freeman involved in the running game. Freeman looked better last week running the ball and is a key part of this offense. Koetter likes to run the ball a lot and wants to have a more balanced offense which we did see some last week as it opened up the play action attack. Koetter also admitted that he needs to Calvin Ridley involved more in this offense. Ridley only had one catch for 6 yards against the Colts.
Defensively, the Falcons failed to get the final stop they need to give Matt Ryan and the offense a chance at tying or winning the game. Falcons also suffered injuries late in the game to defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley. Jarrett has been cleared for Sunday’s game, but not much word on McKinley who suffered a knee injury. If McKinley is not good to go then look for Adrian Clayborn to get the start and expect to see more of rookie John Cominsky. Falcons will also need to stop the run and tackle better. Derrick Henry is a big back and thrives off of yards after contact. One thing that is interesting about Henry is that he does better when he gets to the outside. So if the Falcons can take away the perimeters for Henry then that will force quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat the Falcons with his arm which is something that the Falcons will want since Mariota is more of a threat with his legs than his arm. This leads to another thing that the Falcons will need to do which is contain Mariota. If the Falcons can keep Mariota from beating them with their legs, then they set themselves up on creating more turnovers and give the Titans some serious issues on offense.
Overall, I expect the Falcons to win this game by at least 10 points or more. Tennessee hasn’t really looked good outside of the Browns game. The Titans do have a good defense and one that is a good test for the offensive line. However, I expect the offense to not have much issues in this one. The biggest thing that the Falcons need to do is to limit the self inflicted wounds. This is not necessarily a must win for the Falcons, but it is one that they should be a win. The next 4 games for Atlanta are brutal with the Texans on the road and having both the Seahawks and Rams coming in. The absolute last thing the Falcons need is to go 1-3 heading into Houston. So a win at home against Tennessee can help give them some momentum heading into Houston.
Kickoff against the Titans is at 1:00 on CBS. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter for updates throughout the game and for all things Falcons.
By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599