The Atlanta Falcons have a great opportunity to make everyone forget about their Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints this Sunday, when the team has their home opener against the St. Louis Rams. The Falcons, who lost to New Orleans 23-17, will be taking on a Jeff Fisher-led St. Louis Rams squad that edged out the Arizona Cardinals 27-24 to begin the season 1-0.
Offensively, the Falcons have to utilize former St. Louis battering ram Steven Jackson both through the passing game and the running game, something that the team was unable to do enough in last week’s loss. Although Jackson showed glimpses of his potential as a Dirty Bird last Sunday (77 yards on 11 carries), including an impressive 50 yard run in the third quarter, he never really became an offensive threat, which can be blamed partially on the play-calling that relied heavily on the passing game (38 passes vs 17 runs).
Although one cannot blame Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for allowing quarterback Matt Ryan to do his thing and try to frustrate a seemingly weak Saints’ defense, the Falcons replaced Michael Turner in the backfield to bring the running game up to the par that “The Burner” had established earlier in his career with the Falcons. Jackson not only brings a constant threat when handed the ball, but is also quite capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, something that Turner never did. One game into a tenure is certainly not the time to begin panicking, but the earlier the offense successfully incorporates Jackson’s abilities, the better off the team will be in the long run.
Now we switch to the other side of the ball, where the focus will be on the linebackers and cornerbacks and their ability to take Jared Cook out of the game. Cook, the former Titans tight end who signed with the Rams in the offseason, was quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite target last game, as he was targeted ten times in the win. Cook did not disappoint and instead made the most out of these targets, reeling in seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns (he would have three were it not for a cameo from the Honey Badger).
Because the Rams are still transitioning as part of the post-Steven Jackson era at running back (leading rusher Daryl Richardson had 20 carries for 63 yards), it is a safe assumption that the Rams’ best chance of defeating the Falcons will be via the passing game. While Cook may very well be the top target once again, cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Asante Samuel—if he returns from a thigh injury—also have to keep an eye out for rookie Tavon Austin, whose 4.34 40 speed has the potential to cause some very, very big issues.
Game Prediction: The Falcons avenge the season-opening loss with an impressive game against the Rams, which is highlighted by another good game from Matt Ryan. Ryan lights up the Rams’ defense in this one, as he throws for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns; one to Tony Gonzalez, one to Julio Jones, and one to Jackson. The Rams do a good job at keeping up with the Falcons thanks to a nice game from Bradford and Austin, but it is not enough to top the Falcons at home.
Final Score Rams 21, Falcons 31