Obviously we need to win this game to have any reasonable hope to compete for even a modicum of respectability, much less the division title. I think we will, but only if a few things go well. Things like:
Most of last year, and Week 1 of this year, Garrett called plays like he was afraid of our O-line &/or QB. Scant few deep shots downfield almost made it feel like we were in the Red Zone no matter where we snapped the ball from. As in, it’s hard to get open in the short-to-intermediate zones if the Defense knows they don’t have to cover anyone deeper than 15-20 yards downfield. It’s also hard to get YAC when most completions are on stick routes to stationary receivers with their backs to the Defense. And it’s hard to get a running game going if you’re O-line isn’t that good to begin with, and your Pro Bowl TE is a sub-par blocker.
Last game was a welcome change from all of those things--for Garrett and for DJ in particular. We took a few more shots downfield. We ran a few crossing routes. Our QB ran more often, & quite successfully. And our "other" TEs both blocked well, and even caught a few passes. Not coincidentally, we scored 29 points—and could easily have scored more than that. So I’m hopeful that we will do a lot of those things again—and, against a less-talented Defense. I’m hoping we can score 30 or more in Atlanta, and I’m confident that we will, if we don’t turn the ball over. I also think we’ll see all of our weapons together for the first time: Saquon, Golladay, Slayton, Engram, Toney, Rudolph, Smith and "Ole Reliable," Sterling Shepard. That’s actually not a bad skill-position group, if we can block worth a damn.
As for our Defense, honestly, who knows? We sucked on Defense in 2019, and were much, much better last year. Was that partially because teams under-estimated us, or because our new DC brought a lot of new packages with him? This year, the league seems to have to caught up to us so far. And I think we miss Dalvin & BJ more than most people care to admit. The next chess move is yours, Coach Graham. I think he’ll come up with some new looks and pressures as the season progresses, and I think we’ll get enough pressure on this weak Atlanta O-line to hold the Falcons to, at most, 24 points. That should be enough to win.
The upshot: I see us winning by about 34-21, with a well-rested Saquon looking slightly better, DJ spreading the rock around—and running for 40 yards or more, Toney & Golladay finally making decent contributions, L-Will finally getting a sack or two, and our Red Zone Offense improving (4 TDs & 2 FGs).
Then again, I bet Atlanta’s fans are saying pretty much the same thing about their chances tomorrow, so…
What say ye, fellow Blue Kool-Aid drinkers? :)