It's the tale of two teams right now in Atlanta for the 2-2 Falcons.
The Falcons played the first two games of the season at home, averaging 24.5 points per game, giving up just 17 points per game and finishing with two wins. On the road for the next two games, the Falcons scored a TOTAL of 13 points, gave up an average of 21.5 points per game and flew home from London with a second consecutive loss.
And…week 5's matchup with the Falcons is in Atlanta.
The Texans will face some talented squads this season, but when it comes to true TALENT, the Falcons are as talented as any team, anywhere.
Chris Lindstrom is, arguably, the best guard in the NFL
Bijan Robinson is, arguably, the best non-QB rookie in the NFL
Jessie Bates is one of the top four safeties in the league.
Grady Jarrett is one of the most disruptive linemen in the NFL.
Drake London was WR1 in the 2022 NFL Draft.
A.J. Terrell is one of the best young CBs in the game.
Kyle Pitts is often lauded as the best athlete at TE we've ever seen.
For brevity's sake, I'll stop there, but I could go on and on with the rest of the Falcons' roster. It's truly a loaded roster at nearly every single position, so the Texans have their hands full in a quick minute in the Dirty Dirty. But, if there's something that we've learned about this Texans team, it's that they don't back down to anyone. So, let's get it cranked up for the ATL.
Let's get to Know the Texans' Week 5 Foe - the Atlanta Falcons
2023 Schedule (2-2)
Week 1 - W Carolina Panthers 24-10
Week 2 - W Green Bay Packers 25-24
Week 3 - L @ Detroit Lions 20-6
Week 4 - L @ Jacksonville Jaguars 23-7 (London)
Week 5 - Houston Texans
Week 6 - Washington Commanders
Week 7 - @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 8 - @ Tennessee Titans
Week 9 - Minnesota Vikings
Week 10 - @ Arizona Vikings
Week 11 - BYE
Week 12 - New Orleans Saints
Week 13 - @ New York Jets
Week 14 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 15 - @ Carolina Panthers
Week 16 - Indianapolis Colts
Week 17 - @ Chicago Bears
Week 18 - @ New Orleans Saints
Falcons OFFENSE (in 2023 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 128.0 ypg (11th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 156.3 ypg (32nd)
Total offense per game - 284.3 ypg (24th)
Turnovers lost - 5 (3 INT, 2 Fumbles lost)
Expected Falcons starting offense for Week 5
QB - Desmond Ridder
RB - BIJAN ROBINSON
WR - Drake London
WR - Mack Hollins
TE - Kyle Pitts
TE - JONNU SMITH
LT - Jake Matthews
LG - MATTHEW BERGERON
C - Drew Dalman
RG - Chris Lindstrom
RT - Kaleb McGary
Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Tyler Allgeier
Weapon X - Cordarelle Patterson
WR - KhaDarel Hodge
WR - SCOTTY MILLER
TE - MyCole Pruitt
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023
Keys to winning v. the Falcons Offense
1. Bijan Mustardson - The word "explosive" is overused throughout football but when it comes to Falcons rookie RB Bijan Robinson it's the ONLY word that matters. In just four weeks, he's put defenders on skates and featured them in SportsCenter highlight shows. ESPN legend Chris Berman would have a field day with his "WHOOOOP!" after Robinson made people miss. The Falcons have gotten Robinson an average of 18 touches a game and 19 of those touches have come through the air. Detroit did a tremendous job limiting his impact in that game by fitting the run exceptionally well and rallying with multiple defenders when #7 got the ball. The Texans have great team speed to get to Robinson, but must stay disciplined with run fits and make pristine tackles throughout the day.
2. Ridder me this, Batman - It's not outlandish to say that Falcons QB Desmond Ridder has struggled the past two weeks, in particular. The Falcons are last in the league in passing and the past two weeks, the Falcons have scored just 13 points. But, Ridder has been better at home and he has Bijan and a ton of weapons. What concerns me is that Ridder will find a rhythm in the passing game because of his comfort level at home and that his back is up against the wall. He's always overcome adversity in his career and I worry that he'll play his best when challenged as such. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith spent eight to ten minutes at his press conference discussing Ridder's starting position. So, there's plenty of noise, but Ridder has dealt with adversity in the past. The Texans have to create as much havoc on Ridder early in the game, challenging him to thrive in the first 15 minutes to see how he responds to the pressure. He's also been sacked 16 times, so he'll hold the ball longer than most. The Texans must amp up the volume on Ridder.
3. Position-less - One of the things that stood out when Marc Vandermeer and I spoke with both DeMeco Ryans and Nick Caserio was the flexibility within the Falcons offensive players. "Position-less" was the way that each described the weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Kyle Pitts is part tight end and part receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson has never been a WR or a RB but a wide receiving running back. Even Bijan isn't JUST a running back. That versatility can create a ton of issues for the Texans defense. It creates havoc on matching personnel with each defensive scheme and it makes it truly important for the defense to be dialed into every single personnel situation, combined with down and distance, area on the field and time and score.
Falcons DEFENSE (in 2023 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 114.5 ypg (17th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 176.3 ypg (5th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 290.8 ypg (7th)
Turnovers generated - 4 (3 INT, 1 Fumble recoveries - Falcons are -1 in TO margin)
Expected Falcons starting defense for Week 5
OLB - BUD DUPREE
DT - Grady Jarrett
DT - DAVID ONYEMATA
DE - CALAIS CAMPBELL
LB - KADEN ELLISS
LB - Nate Landman
OLB - Arnold Ebiketie
CB - A.J. Terrell
S - Richie Grant
S - JESSIE BATES
CB - JEFF OKUDAH
*Nickel - Dee Alford
Other Key Defensive pieces
CB - MIKE HUGHES
DE - ZACH HARRISON
OLB - Lorenzo Carter
DT - Ta'Quan Graham
NT - Timmy Horne (PS call up last week in London)
S - Jaylinn Hawkins
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023
Keys to winning v. the Falcons Defense
1. The most underrated GREAT player in the league - When Falcons DT Grady Jarrett was coming out of Clemson many moons ago, I was as high on him as anyone. I loved his tenacious play, stocky build and determination. However, that entices only so many NFL scouts, so Jarrett fell into the Falcons lap on day three of the draft. Suffice to say, he's been a star ever since. At 6-1…maybe, his low center gravity is a definite asset. His quickness, combined with his built-in leverage, are a massive issue for the Texans interior offensive line. If the Texans don't slow Jarrett in this contest, he'll wreck the game from the inside.
2. Again? - During the 2023 offseason, the news broke that the Baltimore Ravens were moving on from Calais Campbell. Hallelujah, I thought, the Texans don't have to face that guy who's been a thorn in the Texans' side since his days with Jacksonville, starting in 2017. Then, a week or so later, he signed with the Falcons. UGHH!! He doesn't play 100% of the time but that also makes him that much more dangerous when he comes into the game. He played 39 plays (of 66) against Jacksonville. His length, size and power are so difficult to handle and it's ALWAYS given the Texans' issues when he's on the field. Perhaps, he's lost a step, but I still worry about Campbell and Jarrett A LOT.
3. Safety psycho - The best move the Falcons made in this past offseason was signing former Bengals safety Jessie Bates. He's stepped into the lineup and already become an instant impact player. The Falcons can do so much more with him with disguises and coverages because of his instincts, transitional quickness and overall ball skills. He forced a fumble last week on a coverage that he wasn't really even a focal point, but he read the play, broke on Jacksonville TE Evan Engram and popped him GOOD. The ball fell to the ground, forcing Engram to recover his own fumble. Bates is one of the smartest safeties in the league as well, so the Texans will need to know where he is on a consistent basis in the back end, before and during each and every play.