Home is where the heart is, right? Well in the Falcon's case, home is where the wins are. Atlanta is 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road this season. Atlanta returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday to face another AFC South opponent, the Houston Texans.
It's another battle of the rookies as the Falcons' defense will look to shut down the number two overall pick C.J. Stroud. Stroud has been impressive so far in his debut season, he currently ranks 5th in passing yards (1,212), 11th in passing touchdowns (6), and has thrown zero interceptions. Stroud currently holds the record for most pass attempts without throwing an interception as a rookie. Nico Collins, Stroud's number one target has been a threat this year as well. Collins has posted 428 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 receptions thus far. Atlanta's secondary could have their handful this week with the Houston passing attack that ranks 4th best in the league.
In terms of the Texans' defense, there's good and there's bad news. The good news (for Atlanta) is they're 19th in terms of rushing yards given up per game. The bad news is they rank 9th in defending the pass. After a rough week from the Atlanta offense in terms of passing, they'll get zero breaths of fresh air when trying to air out the ball.
Now, we could see some smashmouth football if Atlanta can out-muscle the Texans' defensive front. When it comes to figuring out what the Falcons are going to do offensively, Texans safety Jimmie Ward had this to say in an interview this week. "They got wide receivers if they use them. I don't think they're trying to pass the ball, they're trying to out physical teams and run the ball." Ward continued to say, "I already know they're going to stick with the run for sure."
Start Time: 1PM ET
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Stadium: Mercedez-Benz Stadium
TV Info: FOX
Key Players- Offense
Desmond Ridder- Falcons QB
Ridder gets the honor to be the key player on offense two weeks in a row, but not for good reason. If Ridder doesn't perform well in this game, I think Arthur Smith has to look at other options at QB. This offense has the weapons to be a very dangerous group, now if they're not being used how they should be, that's a story for another time. I'm rooting for Ridder and I have been since the beginning of the season, I do think he has the talent to be at least an above-average QB in the NFL. However, his ninth start in the NFL will be a make-it-or-break-it game for the young gunslinger.
Nico Collins- Texans WR
Sticking with Collins for the Texans, Collins is having his best season as an NFL wideout. He already has more touchdowns in four games this season than he's had in his first two seasons in the league. Just last week, Collins posted a stat line of 7 receptions, 168 yards, and 2 touchdowns. That was his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. Collins will be a sure threat versus A.J. Terrell and the Falcons Secondary.
Key Players- Defense
Jeff Okudah- Falcons DB
Okudah appeared in his second game of the season a week ago playing a majority of snaps at CB2. Okudah is really nice addition to the Falcons' defense and could be an important piece to stop the high-powered passing offense of the Texans. It'll be interesting to see how much Okudah is used this week, as he was on the field 74% of the time. last week.
Steven Nelson- Texans DB
Nelson has the 4th lowest passer rating allowed among CBs at 39.2. On top of that, Nelson has four pass deflections and two interceptions on the season. Remember when I said Atlanta won't have any fresh air to breathe when it comes to passing? Yeah, well that's because of this guy for the Texans, Ridder, and co. will have to keep their eyes open for #21 in white.
Points Spread: HOU +1.5 (-105) |ATL -1.5 (-115)
Moneyline: HOU (+110) | ATL (-130)
Over/Under: O 41.5 (-110) | U 41.5 (-110)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, October 8th
Falcons are the favorites in this one, but again it won't be some "cakewalk". The offense is going to be the name of the game for Atlanta. After two weeks of not being able to score more than seven points a game, the Falcons needs a spark and needs that spark to get involved early in the game. That spark could come from veteran Cordarrelle Patterson who made his first appearance of the season last week. Now Patterson only played one snap on offense but was in as the Falcons return man. Going into the game last week Patterson was questionable, which could've had implications on how we used offensively.
Anyways, with Patterson being healthy this could give Ridder another option to throw the ball to, and could give more leeway for Arthur Smith on run plays. I would really like to see diversity in the backfield on Sunday if the Falcons choose to run the ball heavily. Obviously, Bijan should get a majority of the carries, but I would also like to see Allgeier mixed in as well, with a sprinkle of carries from Patterson.
On the other side of the ball, the defense deserves a lot of credit this year. I've said it a lot, but I can't believe I'm watching a Falcons defense that is actually playoff-caliber. Sure, there are still some kinks (pass rush, turnovers) however those kinks aren’t taking Atlanta out of the game like they did in previous years. Jessie Bates lll has been an incredible addition to the Falcon's secondary, Bates has three interceptions so far and has just been a menace all over the field. A.J. Terrell has done really well in man-to-man coverage and the pass rush is really looking up between Grady Jarrett, Calais Campbell, and David Onyemata. The Dirty Bird defense is starting to make its way back, if this defense keeps playing like they are and the offense starts ti click, Atlanta can start turning heads by the end of the season.
Finding offensive rhythm will be key for the Falcons on Sunday. We've seen the run game not be as strong the last couple of weeks, and that has obviously greatly affected the team. Even if the run game is firing on all cylinders, will Ridder still be able to lead the Falcons to victory on Sunday? Well, we have to wait till Sunday to find that out.
But, what I do know is if Arthur Smith and the offense want to be successful they're going to have to get their top playmakers involved other than the RBs. Jonnu Smith performed very well last week 6/6. with 95 yards, that's perfect it gives Ridder another option. However, keep working to get the other receivers/tight ends involved. London has been well in the red zone catching two touchdowns in that part of the field, and with Mack Holluns being the deep threat downfield. This team has the ingredients to be a very dynamic offense, it just needs that final piece and that's the QB, Desmond Ridder.
Even though the Falcons are favorites in this one, it's hard to pick them to win this week. The Texans are surging right now after their win last week over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston has already seen and pointed out that if you stop the Falcon's run game and put the game in Rdder's hands, they'll have a strong chance of winning. With that said, I'm going to have to pick Atlanta to drop this one, until we see Ridder and the offense find rhythm early it's difficult to see them walk away with this one.
Prediction: HOU: 17, ATL: 13