The Las Vegas Raiders and Atlanta Falcons haven’t played since a deflected TD saved the game for Atlanta back in 2016. A lot has changed for these teams since they last met, and yet some commonalities remain.
Derek Carr and Matt Ryan will once again go at it after they combined for 695 passing yards and six touchdowns the last time out. Julio Jones remains the Falcons top target and Atlanta is the second-best team in terms of passing yards per game.
So — with all of this in mind — we asked five questions to our friends over at The Falcoholic ahead of this anticipated Week 12 matchup.
S&BP: On the national stage, we’ve all seen the epic collapses for the Falcons this year, has there been one big culprit, overall, in those moments this season? Or have they differed in each game?
TF: As has become an Atlanta tradition, the collapses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes your special teams unit forgets to recover a football. Other times, your running back trips and falls into the end zone. If you were to look for one consistent, overarching theme, it would probably be coaching. Well-coached teams just don’t make these kinds of mistakes. That’s probably a big reason why the Falcons will field an entirely new staff in 2021.
S&BP: Matt Ryan has been around for a long time now — what is the general feel towards Ryan at this stage of his Falcons career?
TF: There are still fans who inexplicably hate him but most reasonable fans have mixed emotions. They know he’s on the backside of his career and the team does eventually have to find his successor. Yet, he’s still capable of leading a productive offense when given the right support and decent pass protection. Ultimately, if the Falcons draft a QB for the future, I don’t think many fans will complain even if Ryan probably has a few good years left in the tank.
S&BP: A lot has changed since these two teams last met in 2016 — but a lot remains the same. Who is one player from each side of the ball that Raiders fans should absolutely know about heading into this week’s contest?
TF: On the defense it’s a tough call. The standard name is Grady Jarrett, who eats interior offensive lineman for breakfast. But I’ll go with Foye Oluokun, who is having an incredible year at linebacker and is a bit of a surprise, being a sixth-round pick out of Yale. Not exactly Linebacker U. On offense, it’s Calvin Ridley. He’s shown that he can be a dynamic playmaker and incredible route runner. His rapport with Ryan has been quite good this year.
S&BP: Say you are Jon Gruden, how do you stop a team who is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards per game?
TF: It’s all about the QB. When Ryan has had a clean pocket, he’s generally had a lot of success. If that pocket gets muddy, the productivity drops precipitously. Ryan has shown that even if you have guys like Julio and Calvin covered, if he has time he’ll go further down the depth chart and make a guy like Olamide Zaccheus a 100-yard receiver. Get to Ryan and you’ll shut it all down.
S&BP: Game prediction time: Who wins? Final Score?
TF: I’m past the point of believing in the Falcons for 2020. The coaching is dreadful, they find new ways to lose and my liver is two shots shy of shriveling up and throwing in the towel. I think the Raiders win handily, which Atlanta fans will appreciate because it will help us get to a top-five pick in 2021. I’m going to go with Raiders 28 – Falcons 17