The last nine games for the Atlanta Falcons will be the stretch where you find out what this team is made of.
Will the Atlanta Falcons be trying to win games late to make the postseason, or will they be trying to develop for the years to come? Certainly, fans hope for the former, and they may actually have a chance.
As mentioned in the prior article in this series, it can come down to which player dominates a one on one matchup for which team.
These are the nine players that must step up in the last nine games of the Atlanta Falcons regular season, for them to win.
Week 10 – at Dallas Cowboys
Key player: Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB):
Listen, the Atlanta Falcons in all likelihood will not have the secondary to contain the Dallas Cowboys passing attack. So getting a dominant performance out of the pass rush is what will be needed.
Obviously, you have Grady Jarrett who provides a lot up the middle, but Dante Fowler Jr. will need to be the one who pushes Dak Prescott up into the pocket, throwing off his timing with his receivers.
This game either comes down to the Falcons pass rush dominating Dak Prescott, almost like they did when Adrian Clayborn got six sacks off of him in one game, or the offense going lights out and winning the game in the last minute.
Week 11 – New England Patriots
Key player: Grady Jarrett (DT):
If Grady Jarrett dominates the Patriots, it certainly will not be a new thing.
The Patriots may have Cam Newton starting at quarterback, or they may have rookie Mac Jones starting, either way, the Atlanta Falcons would benefit greatly from Grady Jarrett dominating the inside of the Patriot’s offensive line.
If Cam Newton is starting, then Grady’s run defense will be the key. You know that Newton will not shy away from running up the middle of the defense, and Grady Jarrett can render that ineffective if he dominates inside.
On the flip side, if Mac Jones ends up being the Patriots’ starting quarterback there is not much that can mess a rookie up like inside pressure. You certainly will not be worried about Jones running, so this would allow Jarrett to key in on getting his hands on Mac Jones. Jones certainly is not short, but he is not the tallest, so Jarrett could mess up Jones by just having hands in his face.
Week 12 – at Jacksonville Jaguars
Key player: Richie Grant (S):
The Jacksonville Jaguars chances at competing comes down to the play of their rookies, thus the Atlanta Falcons chances for beating the Jaguars comes down to stopping their rookies.
Enter Richie Grant who will play in numerous places on the football field.
The Jaguars’ offense will be led by the former Clemson stars, Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Richie Grant provides the Falcons defense with the best matchup for halting the connection between the two rookies.
Reports came out that the Jaguars used Etienne exclusively at slot receiver during rookie minicamp.
While that may not be a huge foreshadow of how they will use him, it certainly will be something to watch.
Richie Grant will need to blanket Etienne in the passing and running game, while also confusing Trevor Lawrence throughout the game.