The Atlanta Falcons will only go as far as their star-studded roster takes them. While Matt Ryan has once again displayed his abilities as an exceptional passer (he has completed 66.5% of his passes in four games) the same cannot be said for a Falcons defense that has seemingly regressed back to its former state of underwhelming mediocrity. On top of that, the Falcons are still without their recent free agent acquisition Steven Jackson who was acquired to give the Falcons a more balanced offensive flow.
Although the Falcons 1-3 record may appear to indicate that this team is in a world of trouble, their performances in each of those games tells a different story. In their three losses this season, the Falcons have only been beaten by a touchdown or less. Even without their star running back Steven Jackson, the Falcons offense has still remained tenacious and competitive thanks largely in part to the arm of Matt Ryan (he has averaged 316.5 yards per game this season, 4th in the NFL). Although wide receiver Roddy White has been dealing with a lingering ankle injury, the Falcons still have a proficient receiving corps. Between Julio Jones and Harry Douglas proving to be capable targets along with veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez’s continuing to step up despite being in the league for 17 years (he already has three TD receptions on the season), the Falcons still have a superb offense that can score consistently even against the most intimidating defenses.
With that being said, the Falcons are still without a reliable secondary that can shut down veteran and sophomore quarterbacks alike. While the Falcons are currently without their veteran corner Asante Samuel, they still have a developing rookie corner in Desmond Trufant. If the Falcons can utilize the rookie potential they have within their secondary they could have one of the best young defenses in the league.
While it’s important for the Falcons to properly assess their athletic transgressions, they need to look forward to their upcoming opponents to see if they can exploit the weaknesses of these teams that are at or below .500. Although the Falcons face a resilient Jets defense on Sunday, they have the advantage of playing against rookie quarterback Geno Smith who has thus far put up below average numbers (he has completed 57.4% of his passes along with throwing 8 INT’s). This game will be a grand opportunity for this young Falcons secondary to prove they can effectively contain Smith while forcing critical three and outs to give their offense solid field position.
Down the Stretch, the Falcons will face division opponents Carolina and Tampa Bay (both of whom have the worst passing games in the league as they are ranked 32nd and 31st respectively). In between these two matchups, the Falcons will go on the road to face the Arizona Cardinals who have an average passer and a mediocre secondary that will provide Matt Ryan with ample opportunities to score when the ball is in his hands. If the Falcons can come out of each of these games with a well-earned victory they will not only be 5-3, they will have a chance to defend that record when they go up against the best defense in the league.
While this match up would appear to favor the Seattle Seahawks because of their deep and well developed secondary, the Atlanta Falcons have the weapons to counter attack against the Seahawks stout defense and smash mouth running game. Although Marshawn Lynch has proven to be the offensive leader of this physical Seahawks franchise, he has had trouble going up against bigger defensive lines that can wrap him up effectively. In the Seahawks first game of the season against the Carolina Panthers, Marshawn Lynch was all but irrelevant as he only rushed for 43 yards. Not only do the Falcons have a better pass rush than the Panthers, they also have a quarterback who can properly utilize the field position that is given to him. Although the Seahawks have a reliable passer of their own in Russell Wilson, he isn’t nearly as proficient as Ryan in terms of touchdown passes and overall yardage (Ryan already as over 1,300 passing yards, Wilson has only thrown for 787 yards this season).
While the Falcons have put themselves in a 1-3 hole, they have the talent and potential to not only climb out of it but to be conference contenders once again. Between having a favorable schedule in October along with having one of the most consistent passers in the game, the Falcons should feel reassured about their chances of bouncing back. Although some teams would view a losing record as the potential demise of their season, for the Atlanta Falcons, it only provides them with the opportunity to prove that they are the real deal.