The final quarter of the 2016 season is here and the Atlanta Falcons find themselves still in the playoff picture. The division lead is incredibly slim and they cannot afford any slip-ups this week.
A 29-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week was met with much dreariness. The tough loss will be remembered with much regret, but it came against a Chiefs team that has shown themselves to be one of the best in the NFL. On a positive note, the Week 13 loss demonstrated that the Atlanta Falcons can contend despite playing some downright sloppy football.
The Rams are young across the entire roster and lack a sense of direction.
The focus is now on the upcoming contest with the 4-8 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are young across the entire roster and lack a sense of direction.
This week’s contest in L.A. seems pretty easy on paper but the Falcons may be without star receiver Julio Jones (turf toe) and starting left tackle Jake Matthews (knee). Receiver Mohamed Sanu has been ruled out due to an injured groin suffered in the Chiefs game. The Falcons are limping but still have a few healthy assets and enter into a very winnable contest.
Here is the checklist for the Week 14 matchup in Los Angeles:
Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones (45) defends against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 43-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
#4. End Rams Drives On 3rd Down
The Rams offense is in the cellar of the NFL in several different categories. One in particular is 3rd down offense, where the Rams’ 32.5%, 3rd down conversions per game ranks 32nd in the NFL.
To dive a little deeper into the statistic:
On 3rd down, with yards to go between 4 and 6 yards, the Rams have ran 40 plays. Of the 40, 33 were pass plays in which the Rams only converted 12 times. Their quarterbacks hold a 55.3 quarterback rating in these situations. In the same stat, the Falcons are 26-of-32 through the air. Atlanta has 17 conversions and a 124.5 rating for Matt Ryan.
This is an aspect of the game where the Falcons have to shut the door on the Rams on defense. Los Angeles is a dreadful, 5-of-35 on 3rd down in their last 3 games. Sound tackling, tight coverage, and an active defensive line will be the right ingredients for the Falcons to end L.A. drives.
Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
#3. Tame Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley is in the midst of an ugly 2016 campaign, averaging a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry. Critics blaming Gurley for his poor production should look to the front where the Rams offensive line has been unreliable for majority of the season.
The Rams have rushed for 76 yards or less In 8 of their12 games this season. As a whole, the team is 31st in rushing yards per attempt (3.3) and 31st in big rushing plays of 10 yards or more (19).
The Falcons allow just 100.8 rushing yards per game, good for 15th in the league. It seems middle of the pack, but for a team that has held opponents below 90 rushing yards in 7-of-12 games, its an element the Falcons can be above-average at worst.
Against an offensive line that has been a headache this season, tackles Grady Jarrett, Johnathan Babineaux, Ra’Shede Hageman, and Tyson Jackson will have to clog up running lanes and keep the Rams offensive line from establishing Gurley. Gurley is a big back with All-Pro talent, but taming the 226-lb back is something that can and must be done.
Dec 4, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) prepares to throw the ball in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
#2. Win Every Quarter On The Scoreboard
The scoring aspect falls clearly on the offense that has been producing points all season. The Atlanta Falcons are the only team in the NFL averaging more than 30 points per game. Atlanta’s offense also ranks 2nd with 2.3 passing touchdowns and 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game and is #1 with 52.7% scoring efficiency.
Sep 27, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on the sidelines against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Continuing the efficiency won’t be easy with Mohamed Sanu out and Julio Jones extremely limited. A lot of pressure falls on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan quarterback Matt Ryan, and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Atlanta offense is also equipped with enough depth assets to score points, touchdowns or field goals, and not give the Rams any ounce of hope.
It will also be up to Atlanta’s defense to hold off the Rams offense, stuff drives, and force turnovers. The Rams are a team that is extremely young across the board and is in need to find some type of spark. That spark wait till next week.
Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) takes a handoff from quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half of a football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Falcons won 43-28. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
#1. Waves Of Freeman & Coleman
Where this game may be won or lost is on the ground. The Atlanta Falcons run game is 9th in the league and has topped 90 rushing yards in 5 of their last 6 games. This includes 128 yards against the Chiefs and 116 yards against the Cardinals, within the last 2 weeks.
Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs the ball against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Rams defense is 21st in the against the run. Within the past 5 weeks, Los Angeles has allowed 133 yards to the Patriots, 209 to the Saints, and 139 to the Jets. Suffice to say, the run element for the Falcons is there for the taking on Sunday.
In Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons possess one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL . The pair may have to carry a little more of the load for the offense with the passing game being shorthanded this week.
Receivers Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson, and Justin Hardy are going to have to step to the plate in this one. The Falcons ground game will struggle if they can’t convert through the air on occasion.
The Rams possess one of the top 5 defensive players in the league with Aaron Donald. Paired with Robert Quinn, Donald stands in the way of Atlanta getting the run game off the ground with ease.