After that 25-0 beating thrown by the Patriots into the guts of the Falcons, I have to rant and rant. It really is a tale of two cities (yes, we understand that New England is not technically a city). Atlanta is reeling right now; they are skydiving without a parachute. Meanwhile, the Patriots can’t go wrong and apparently won the rookie quarterback raffle this year with Mac Jones running a consistent offense every week.
Let’s start with the ravings for what you need to know this week!
1. Hawks, where do we go now?
The great Axl Rose of the band Guns N ‘Roses asked hauntingly, “Where are we going?” in the breakdown of the song “My sweet child. “Well lately I’m scared for the Falcons. The team is 4-6, but those four wins were against the Giants, Jets, Dolphins and Saints, not exactly. Killer row. In their last two games, the Falcons have been beaten 68-3 combined against the Cowboys and Patriots, respectively. While Atlanta is still within reach of a playoff spot, something is clearly wrong here.
This team was bad last year (4-12) and it’s hard to see much improvement. Matt Ryan is 36 and entering the final two years of his contract, and it should be clear that they are a year behind in trying to find a pending replacement. Julio Jones, he left. Calvin Ridley, temporarily missing, but hopefully returning sooner rather than later. Your best offensive player, indefinitely, is a big question mark. Cordarrelle Patterson has been a pleasant surprise, but is a franchise back? Mike Davis, I’ll talk about it downstairs. LB Deion Jones is not living up to the standard he set early in his career and his best defensive player, CB AJ Terrell, is the only one who comes close to Pro Bowl talent on that side of the ball.
Unfortunately, this team needs help from OL and they urgently need it. As Dave Holcomb of the Falcon Report noted in the linked article:
After years of neglecting the line or in the draft, the Falcons have selected four blockers in the first three rounds for the past three years … Despite the draft capital spent on offensive linemen, the unit was a big question mark. to the 2021 season. Watching them fight is neither surprising nor new … But the offensive line seems to be getting worse. The Falcons have allowed multiple sacks in every game over the past four weeks. Also during that stretch, the opposition is averaging 8.5 quarterback hits against Matt Ryan.
And now that? Well, the running game isn’t doing them any favors either. Again, as Holcomb noted, “Among the 48 eligible running backs, Davis is 45th in rushing yards before carry contact. He is one of 10 running backs in the league who, on average, is hit before he reaches two yards beyond the scrimmage line. “
Well, we will have to see the path cleared by first-year general manager Terry Fontenot. Former general manager Thomas Dimitroff was fired weeks after the 2020 season and Fontenot was named general manager in January of this year. Fontenot continues to command a team with spare parts and it shows. I’d feel better, if I had something at stake on this team, if there was some light here beyond Kyle Pitts, because I don’t see much to hang my hat on.
It’s easy to stack a team that’s coming off back-to-back beatings, but that’s the point. Atlanta has three picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, and it already looks like they’re on the clock.
Falcons Random Fact: In their last two games, the Falcons have had 23 possessions. They have resulted in one field goal, a missed FG, three turnovers on downs, nine punts, eight interceptions (one was a pick-six) and a punt returned for a touchdown. Oh.
2. Let Mac Jones roll
While Cam Newton is stealing the headlines with his return to the Panthers, Mac Jones has lived up to his “most NFL ready” designation during the draft review period. While Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields oscillate between nothing as bad as waiting their turn, Jones has the Patriots on a five-game winning streak after a shaky 2-4 start. Nor is he doing it with a bunch of superstars on offense. RB Damien Harris has been the most reliable starter when healthy. Rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson has shown some sparkles when asked. The Pats’ top three receivers are Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor. TE Hunter Henry has been reliable in the red zone with seven touchdowns, but he’s not burning the field on seam routes and challenging defenses downfield. This team is just a classic case of a unit that adds up to more than the sum of its parts and that is something that I feel always comes to training, something that comes as no surprise to Bill Belichick and Co.
Are the Patriots back? I wouldn’t go that far. The defense is playing excellently and the offense can flourish with a conservative playing style. This is a team that wants to play with an advantage and lean against the ropes, wear you out with body shots. More impressive still, New England is now 5-0 on the road, tying the Cardinals, who are also 5-0 on the road. Again, I think this speaks to the team playing as a cohesive unit.
I think the biggest takeaway here is that the Pats have really put the gloves on Jones. Almost all of his completions last night were within a few feet of the line of scrimmage – shots on the short, flat crossing routes. The offense wants the ball to get out of their hands quickly, and New England is finding creative ways to keep teams off balance within this structure. The media narrative will want to highlight how Jones completed 85% of his passes last night, but that’s not difficult to do when you never throw the ball onto the field because the play doesn’t give you more than a couple of chances per game to catch. shots downfield. In the first half, he had a complete pass thrown past the front row and it came during a two-minute drill with the Falcons playing defense on a first-and-10 around midfield.
So what is the point here? I’ll give the rookie credit for playing inside himself and the offensive coaches credit for creating really artisanal game plans that minimize risk. But this offense and Jones along with it go out the window if they get down early. Eventually, they will play against a team that scores a touchdown to start the game and watch the wheels roll off. As the late Dennis Green said, “If you want to crown them, ”Then go ahead and colonel them. Mac Jones is who we thought he was, an NFL-ready rookie quarterback, and I’m still not about to give him a word more praise than that. And this gamified approach for Jones carries over to every player on the team. Nobody is asked to do more than they are really capable of and that is why a team full of slightly above-average players can perform like a very good team when things go according to plan.
Random fact from Mac Jones: From ESPNJones is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to complete 80% of his passes in consecutive games.
3. Let’s go with Deebo
Averaging a ridiculous 11.4 yards per goal, Deebo Samuel is having a career year. Only Ja’Marr Chase is anywhere near that number among receivers with 60 or more targets. Samuel has logged at least 90 receiving yards in six of the 49ers’ nine games. His 108.8 yards per game are behind only Cooper Kupp (114.1 ypg). His 979 yards are the second-most in nine games in 49ers history. (1,006, Jerry Rice, 1990) and his 517 receiving yards in nine games is the most for any player since Percy Harvin in 2012.
Samuel credits Emmanuel Sanders for his work ethic and commitment to the game. At a recent press conference, Samuel praised his former teammate, who was only with the franchise for the second half of the 2019 season, the year San Francisco made a Super Bowl appearance.
[I talk to him] weekly. Once a week. In fact, I spoke to him after the game. [against the Rams], and he was excited. He said, ‘Hey, you’re becoming the type that I know you are going to be,’ and he just complimented me … For me, it was like his work ethic. Arriving at the meetings, he arrived at 6:30 [a.m.] when you’re supposed to be here like 7:30, getting ahead of the playbook, and the way he behaved in practice, and the leader he was, and the energy that he brought.
To Sanders’ credit, he’s had a great career, and while he may not be highly respected among the greats of the game, he had some special years after moving to the Broncos in the mid-2010s. Sanders, who is a type of glue and a player to set an example for Samuel and others, it only increases my appreciation for him.
Speaking of special, this all brings me to Samuel’s most impressive stat. He’s averaging 16.0 yards per touch, far more than the next best in that category (Justin Jefferson, 13.7 yards / touch). Previous leaders in that statistic – Tyreek Hill in 2020 and 2018, Julio Jones in 2019, and Antonio Brown in 2017 – are considered among the fantasy elite of their day, but that distinction has yet to sink in Samuel. I think it’s time to recognize what it has become because it seems to have made the leap.
4. Mandatory reading of week 11 of SI Fantasy
Before setting up your lineups, be sure to check out some of the world-class fantasy details from our SI Fantasy analysts:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.