Falcons kickoff Monday against the New York Giants in the spectacular Mercedez Benz Stadium. This game has traditionally been close and tough nosed where the better of the two defenses come out on top. Since 2012 the team that failed to score more than 20pts has lost this matchup. Its Eli and Matt Ryan’s 5th meeting with Eli holding a 3-2 edge over Ryan. While the QBs may be the same, this will be a completely different style matchup than we’ve seen in the recent past. The Giants have faltered greatly on offense this season with their entire production seeming to come from rookie Saquan Barkley.
Key #1 : Saquan Barkley
Speaking of Barkley, what a football player and the first key to this week. This guy has everything wanted in a RB and more. The Falcons will be tested in a way they have not yet experienced this season. Kamara is a great RB and the best the Falcons have probably seen this season. Barkley brings that same explosiveness and elusiveness, however, Barkley is more of a true swiss army knife like James Conner has shown to be for the Steelers this season. The Falcons are essentially facing a quicker, faster, stronger version of James Conner who had no issues carving up the Falcons defense. For this the OL play for the Giants will be a focus as the Falcons look to get a boost with Grady Jarrett back in the middle this week. The Giants OL hasn’t been able to create many holes for Barkley but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up fantastic production.
The biggest reason this will be a huge challenge; Barkley forces a lot of missed tackles with his late jolts and cuts while possessing the ability to go 0 to 60 like a Dodge Demon packing V8 American Muscle behind it. The Falcons have struggled tackling while battling a barrage of early season injuries and a strong, elusive, athletic running back isn’t going to do the defense any favors. This is a game the Falcons need both Riley and Oluokun to focus on finishing their tackles in space. The loss of Ricardo Allen has been especially tough in this department as he was one of the most sure tacklers the Falcons have on the team and continuously relied on as it’s safety valve. Kazee has been alright filling in that role, but hes not the tackler in the open field Allen has proven to be.
Key #2 : Pass Rush
The second key will be the pass rush this week. Eli has really struggled this season under pressure and the Falcons will need to continue that trend to help the back end of the roster where most of the injuries have occurred.
The Falcons are starting to get healthy along the DL and it paid dividends at times last week against TB. The Falcons really need to get that push up the middle from Jarrett and McCain to help the speed rush of Beasley. McKinnely is tenacious and I’d be interested in seeing him line up inside next to Jarrett in a known passing down to use his speed power combination against the slower guards. The DL will be key in setting the edge in the run game and gap integrity against Barkley. Stopping the run will allow them to put more heat on Eli and lead to the final key to this weeks game.
Key #3 : Man Coverage
Man coverage on specifically Evan Engram and Odell Beckham Jr will be key matchups to watch. If the Falcons DL struggles early to get penetration and stymie the run game, they will be forced to bring defenders into the box to focus on the run. Honestly, the Falcons are likely to do this early anyways and challenge the DBs to hold against the receivers on the outside. Trufant and Alford will have to be on their A game because OBJ will be looking to get back to business this week after the early season struggles.
Riley and Campbell in coverage on Engram will also be a key match up to watch. Riley has really struggled filling in as a full time starter but where hes shown some promise is in pass coverage, He has also shown the speed to stay on the hips of TEs but he’ll need to learn to get his head around and make more plays on the ball vs the receiver. Something Campbell struggled with early in his career but has become better in experience.
This Monday night match up will be extremely important as this is an opportunity for the Falcons to get back on track. The Giants greatest strengths will attack the Falcons biggest weaknesses. Barkley can break tackles and hit holes with speed and this will challenge our defenders. Meanwhile the Falcons DL will have a chance to build confidence and momentum against one of the most dysfunctional OL units this season and help keep Barkley in check.
If the Falcons are able to overcome their weaknesses, this will play big in the long run of a season that initially looked really promising before kickoff of week 1. While the Falcons certainly have a long, long road to having a chance at the playoffs, there is still an opportunity that’s attainable and time to right this ship. The LB core will get a huge jump with the return of Jones, and winning this week could be the determining factor of whether the Falcons put him on the field in mid November or potentially hold him out longer to be safe. A loss will all but guarantee no chance for the playoffs. It will all but guarantee the Falcons finishing this season .500 or worse. So this week, and this game is the time where the Falcons have a chance to prove they can get back to their winning ways and build some confidence going into the bye week that the season is not lost. Now is the time the team and city must rally, fight and show our true colors. This Falcon may be wounded, but it can still Rise Up!