During the Sunday afternoon contest between the Falcons and Raiders, there are several games within the game to keep an eye on. Here are the three that will be the most important to determining the final outcome:
Oakland DT Richard Seymour vs. Atlanta Interior Offensive line: Seymour was at a time one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL, and while he isn’t dominant at this stage in his career, he is certainly the Raiders best defensive lineman. I don’t think the Falcons will need to fret over any pass-rush off the edge, but they will be concerned with negating any interior push from the defensive tackle. If Justin Blalock, Todd McClure and Garrett Reynolds do their job and successfully block Seymour, something they are completely capable of, this Falcons offense will roll and probably won’t stop.
Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon vs. Oakland RB Darren McFadden: Darren McFadden is a really outstanding running back. He is fast, strong, and runs north-south, and not east-west. That style of running will be benefit from running in a zone blocking scheme where the runner only needs to find a hole, and immediately hit it. But against Atlanta, Sean Weatherspoon will likely be the most important person to stopping the run. The defensive line needs to be active in slowing down McFadden and cutting off the open running lanes, but it will generally be up to Weatherspoon the make the tackle and bring down the ball carrier. If Spoon has a big day and is active from sideline to sideline especially against the run, the Oakland passing attack won’t be able to get going, and the Raiders offense won’t take flight at all.
Oakland Linebackers & Safeties vs. Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez: Who on earth can defend Tony Gonzalez? I’ve watched the tape and I have come up with a massive list of defenders who can’t cover Gonzalez. I suspect that list will only get longer when the Falcons host the Raiders. If the Raiders decide to take Gonzalez away from Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones will do massive damage through the air on the outside. There just really isn’t a way to cover Gonzalez, and I’d expect him to continue to do big things for Atlanta in week 6.