Tha Sports Junkies 101

Week 2 Preview: Falcons Clash With Oakland Raiders

Atlanta Falcons week 2 preview Paul Sheppard via Flickr


0-1 Falcons must prove they belong

The Atlanta Falcons travel to Oakland on Sunday to take on the Raiders in an attempt to kickstart a season that spent a large amount of time in neutral during a week 1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While results elsewhere meant that only one team in the NFC South was able to get a win in the first week, the Falcons can’t afford to go to New Orleans next week sitting at 0-2 with the Panthers, Broncos and Seahawks waiting in weeks 4, 5 and 6.

The Raiders sit at 1-0 after an opening week victory against the Saints, which saw Head Coach Jack Del Rio receiving widespread praise after opting for two points and the victory when the safer decision was to take the game to overtime with a PAT. The result was a 35-34 victory and an encouraging start to the season for one of the hottest teams of the offseason.

With the aforementioned tough schedule, Atlanta need to get a win on the board and their chances to do so rely heavily on three factors.

Running Game

While week 1 was considered a breakout game for Tevin Coleman, he did the vast majority of his work in the passing game. He and Devonta Freeman combined for 42 yards on 19 carries, averaging a meagre 2.2 yards per carry. Kyle Shanahan offenses are known for being able to establish a running game and, in what is likely to be a shootout, being able to control the clock and allow the defense time on the sideline could be crucial to grinding out a victory.

Matt Ryan

This could perhaps be categorized as “passing game” but the Falcons quarterback is the most important piece of the puzzle. Ryan looked like his 2012 self for large parts of the game, but a few missed passes on the final drive reminded fans of his recent struggles in a West Coast Offense system that relies so heavily on timing. Ryan passed for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns in a game that saw Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Jacob Tamme featured more heavily than one of the best wide receivers in the league. We have seen how dominant Julio Jones can be when given the opportunity, so expect to see him targeted more often on Sunday.

Passing Defense

After finishing last in the league last season in sacks last season with 19, much was made of Atlanta’s need to improve their pass rush. While Derrick Shelby was brought in during free agency and Dwight Freeney was added in August, the emphasis was very much on getting faster and more athletic at the linebacker position in order to try and defend against the short passes to running backs and tight ends that destroyed the souls of Falcons fans last season. First round strong safety Keanu Neal and fourth round weakside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell will both miss the game. While Kemal Ishmael and Sean Weatherspoon are capable players in their own right, neither are the prototype for Dan Quinn’s defense, which puts a heavy emphasis on speed.

Desmond Trufant is an excellent cornerback and Robert Alford rarely lets the team down, but the Falcons still struggle defending against the pass. Even when they were able to force Jameis Winston to dump the ball off, poor tackling meant that the Bucs were still able to make plays, most notably with Charles Sims evading a swarm of Falcons defenders en route to a touchdown.

The Raiders possess one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and I expect them to allow Derek Carr time to throw the ball, even if they are a little banged up. I’m not expecting a repeat of week 1, when the Falcons didn’t register a sack, but I don’t think there’s enough talent to make Carr uncomfortable often enough to make a real difference.


With two high-powered offenses on the field, the victor could well be the team who is able to make the most plays on defense. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they are going up against one of the league’s premier pass rushers in Khalil Mack. They will be looking at the man taken one pick after him in Jake Matthews to build upon a solid second season and help keep Matt Ryan on his feet.

I think that both teams will put up points and it may well come down to the last drive of the game, but when the game is on the line I think that the Raiders with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Khalil Mack have more difference makers in crucial positions than the Falcons do. I expect a close game but you don’t get anything for coming close in the NFL. It could well be a long season for Atlanta, but hopefully we see growth and development from the young players as the season progresses.