Heading into week five of the 2013 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons surely weren’t expecting to be sitting at 1-3 what is somewhat of a must-win situation against a New York Jets team with a better record than them. However, that’s exactly the challenge that Atlanta, one of the teams that made it to the NFC Championship game last season, is facing.
A big factor in the Falcons’ slow start has been the simple fact that injuries have all but decimated them. Starting running back Steven Jackson has been sidelined in recent weeks, wide receiver Roddy White hasn’t been at full-strength all year, Julio Jones was slowed down by injuries last week, and countless other key cogs on their roster have been less than 100 percent.
Before the season began, week five might’ve looked like an easy win over the Jets for the Falcons. However, with Geno Smith looking at least semi-competent at quarterback for New York and with the Jets and Rex Ryan reminding us all that they still know how to play great defense, this Jets team is by no means a mark for an easy win.
Coming into this game, though, one thing that stands out for the Falcons is that they might really struggle in terms of getting their passing game going. Let me start by saying that I’m one of the few that actually has a lot of faith in the abilities of Matt Ryan, but I’m also fully aware that he’s not heading into a good situation on Monday Night Football this week.
For starters, Falcons starting left tackle Sam Baker has already ruled out for this game. For a line that’s already given up seven sacks on the year, that’s not a promising sign in terms of the pass-protection that Matty Ice is going to be getting on Monday. Adding to that, Jones has still been bothered slightly by his knee injury, White is still limited in practice because of his Ankle, and Tony Gonzalez hasn’t looked the same at all compared to last season. Sure, he has three touchdown grabs already, but just watch him play and he definitely doesn’t look the same.
If White continues to be ineffective and if Jones is going at let’s say 80 percent, that’s going to put Ryan in a bad situation. Not only is he limited in his options as of right now, but he’s also facing a pass defense that is far from laughable. Through four games, the Jets have only allowed 204 yards per game through the air and have also already accrued 14 sacks as a unit. With a banged up receiver core and depleted offensive line in Atlanta, that could be a recipe for trouble.
There’s a chance that the Falcons are just being cautious with Jones at this point, but from the outside looking in there seems to be a reason for slight concern. If he comes out and looks himself, that alleviates some of the worries about Atlanta’s passing game. However, if the Falcons’ pass-catchers all come out looking a step slow, it could be long night for Matt Ryan and the gang.