The Atlanta Falcons (5-0) are getting ready to host the Oakland Raiders(1-3) at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons will try to reach 6-0 for the first time in franchise history, and to go for a sweep of the AFC West in 2012. Sounds like a laugher, right?
As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend”
Talk about your potential trap games for the Falcons, and this is it. On paper the Raiders don’t even come close to matching up with Atlanta. The Falcons have the advantage in nearly every category on both sides of the ball. Atlanta is scoring an average of 29.6 points per game, and the Raiders are allowing 31.25. So why worry?
Because this is exactly the kind of game you should worry about.
First off, Oakland hasn’t won a game in the Eastern Time Zone since December 2009 when they stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers. and the Raiders have lost nine straight games following a bye week. Both are negative streaks that Oakland will eventually have to end. The longer streaks like that go one, the higher the probability that they will eventually be broken.
There is one other concerning aspect of this game. Darren McFadden.
McFadden has yet to really get going, and the Raiders putrid running attack ranks last in the NFL right now. McFadden is coming off a foot injury that limited him to only seven games in 2011, but he’s a quality back that is eventually going to hit his stride. From the comments that Raiders QB Carson Palmer made this week, they will be looking to feed McFadden the ball a lot more.
Atlanta needs to take advantage of the Raiders depleted secondary (missing starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer) and have Matt Ryan spread the ball around to their host of receivers. If the Falcons can get a big lead early, the Raiders will have to abandon any plan of running the ball as much as they hoped.
Barring the Falcons giving in to the pressure of their continued undefeated streak (or the football gods just simply pointing to Oakland’s side of the field), Atlanta should be able to put this game away early.
Stat that could mean the difference in the game: The Raiders’ defense is last in the NFL in third-down efficiency, giving up 53.3 percent of opponents attempts (32 of 60). Atlanta’s offense ranks No. 2 in the NFL in third-down efficiency, converting 48.5 percent of their attempts (32 of 66). If the Raiders can’t get the Falcons offense off the field on third down, it’s going to be a long day for them.
Player to watch: Oakland DT Richard Seymour. The 12-year veteran out of Georgia still has some gas in the tank, and it’s a sure thing he’ll want to play well in front of a Georgia audience. Seeing what Carolina Panthers DE Charles Johnson (also out of Georgia) did against the Falcons offensive line 2 weeks ago could have Seymour licking his chops.
Series History: Raiders lead the series 7-5, but Falcons have won the last two meetings (2004, 2008)
Prediction: Falcons are favored by 9. Take Atlanta and the points. Falcons win 34-17