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Falcons look to continue winning streak against Chiefs – week 13 preview

Falcons and Chiefs players N_Blair via


The Atlanta Falcons kick off December with a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in a battle of two playoff hopefuls.

The Falcons moved to 7-4 with a 38-19 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in week 12, which gave them another week atop the NFC South. After a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 11, the Chiefs rebounded with a 30-27 overtime victory over their divisional rivals, the Denver Broncos. Now at 8-3, they sit just one game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West and hold the AFC’s fifth seed.

Falcons News

The Falcons once again bitten by the injury bug.  Defensive end Adrian Clayborn is set to miss the next month with a torn MCL. The Falcons’ defensive line, in particular their pass rushers, have exceeded expectations this year, despite lacking in star power. Clayborn has accounted for 4.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hits.

Clayborn’s injury paves the way for Brooks Reed to see more playing time. Reed racked up 14.5 sacks over 4 seasons with the Houston Texans but injuries derailed his first season in Atlanta and, with his salary cap hit becoming a lot more manageable after his first two years, he will need to prove that he belongs on the team in 2017.

With Desmond Trufant heading to injured reserve and confirmed to be out for the rest of the season, the Falcons signed former Tennessee Titan Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Drafted by current scout Ruston Webster during his time as general manager of the Titans, Wreh-Wilson stands 6’1 and looks like the prototypical Dan Quinn cornerback. If active, he will likely be limited to special teams at first with Robert Alford and Jalen Collins starting, while Brian Poole continues to operate in nickel packages.

Having missed the victory over Arizona with a hamstring injury, punter Matt Bosher looks as if he will play. Matt Wile deputized excellently on Sunday, but teams don’t keep more than one punter on their roster and Wile was waived after only a week.

With one roster spot to fill, the Falcons signed center Trevor Robinson, who previously spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers. Robinson has appeared in 38 NFL games since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame following the 2012 draft. The main significance of the move is that it allows Ben Garland, who was previously providing depth on the offensive line, the opportunity to move over to defensive tackle on a full-time basis, having impressed in limited snaps.

Chiefs News

The Chiefs have struggled with injuries of their own this season. Having spent the majority of the season awaiting the return of former All-Pro pass rusher Justin Houston, Houston flashed his dominance with a three sack performance against the Broncos on Sunday. Houston appeared on the injury report with a shoulder injury but participated fully in practice on Wednesday and, barring any setbacks, will play on Sunday.

The Falcons spent much of the negotiation period prior to free agency in discussions to bring veteran pass rusher Tamba Hali to Atlanta. The 5-time Pro Bowler eventually ended up returning to Kansas City but both Hali and the Falcons will have points to prove. Hali is nursing a shoulder injury but he’s been a full participant in practice.

Although the Chiefs have some of the best defensive talent in the league, they currently rank 29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed over the course of the season, allowing 121.4 yards per game on average. On paper their defensive line is a strength, but they have shown that they can be exploited on the ground. Both Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard,  missed practice on Wednesday, and if they are unable to play then their chances of stopping Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will diminish greatly.

In Justin Houston’s absence it was Dee Ford who lead the Chiefs’ pass rushers. Ford, who the Falcons reportedly attempted to trade back into the first round to acquire in the 2014 draft, already has 10 sacks this season and the quickness of his first step will remind the Falcons of their own Vic Beasley, who leads the team in sacks.


The Falcons and Chiefs play the game in two incredibly different styles. The Falcons like to lead from the front with their explosive offense and force the opposition to try and keep up, while the Chiefs look for their dominant defense to keep the score down so that Alex Smith and Spencer Ware can grind out yards with short passes and runs.

The first priority for the Falcons will be attempting to contain the running game. Spencer Ware has performed well in Jamaal Charles’ absence, but he’s lost some of his explosiveness and violence in recent weeks. If he’s unable to get going then the Chiefs will likely look to manufacture touches for Tyreek Hill, whose game-breaking speed has become a much bigger part of the offense in recent weeks.

On offense, the Falcons will likely look to move Julio Jones around to avoid Marcus Peters, who doesn’t travel with receivers. While Jones is definitely capable of beating Peters, who has shown that he is susceptible to giving up the big play, there are few players who are better at getting their hands on the ball than the second year cornerback and the Falcons will want to avoid turnovers.

The Chiefs’ other starting cornerback, Phillip Gaines, gave up 209 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 6 receptions against the Broncos’ offense, lead by Trevor Siemian. With the Falcons possessing big play threats in Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could look to take some deep shots.

The Falcons and the Chiefs are two even teams, but the Falcons’ offense is the best unit in the game. If they are able to start quickly and put points on the board then Alex Smith will be forced out of his comfort zone and it could be difficult for the Chiefs to keep up.