Chances are, the Atlanta Falcons were counting on a fast start to the season with a schedule that featured five of their first seven games at home before the bye. It hasn’t exactly worked out. At 2-4 heading into Monday night’s home game against the New York Giants, Atlanta now faces an uphill battle to a playoff berth.
But perhaps all is not lost. A couple of late blown leads could come back to haunt them, but the Falcons are a couple plays from being 4-2 or even 5-1. And they have won two of three inside the NFC South, so they still control their own destiny. But none of that will matter if they don’t take care of business against the Giants.
Everything about the Giants screams “rebuild” except for the fact that they bet on Eli Manning still having something left in the tank. Unfortunately, he is running on fumes. While his numbers are not bad on the surface, he is a sitting duck behind a bad offensive line and on pace to take 53 sacks, which would be a career-high. If there was something left, opponents are beating it out of him.
New York at Atlanta
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 22 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Falcons -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Coleman carry the load?
Tevin Coleman has been extremely effective during his career sharing the Falcons’ backfield with Devonta Freeman, but now he is on his own. Freeman is on injured reserve until at least Week 15, and Coleman has produced mixed results while Freeman has been banged up so far. In Week 2 he had a huge day (107 yards on 16 carries), but overall he is below 4.0 yards per carry for the first time in his career. The Falcons have attempted fewer rushes than any team in the NFL; is that because they don’t think Coleman can handle a full workload without Freeman around? Maybe, but Coleman excels as a receiver, so they need to get the ball into his hands more often one way or another.
2. Eli’s last stand
As we mentioned above, when Manning isn’t getting hit, he is actually putting up numbers. His 68.7 completion percentage would be a career-best, his interception percentage is lower than it has ever been by far, and he’s on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards. Of course, none of that adds up to much when the Giants are 1-5, but he could silence his critics for another week against the Falcons. Atlanta is missing half of its starting secondary plus star linebacker Deion Jones, and it shows. The defense ranks 29th against the pass, 30th in total yards allowed and 31st in points allowed. Only four teams have fewer than Atlanta’s 10 sacks. If the Giants can’t move the ball on Monday, perhaps Eli’s time truly has come.
3. Star power
Normally, we’d say go ahead and find a viewing option that doesn’t involve watching two teams who are a combined 3-9. But this should be an entertaining game. As we’ve noted, neither team is very good on defense, so there should be some big plays. Both teams have established superstar receivers in New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Atlanta’s Julio Jones. And both teams have rookies who make it worth tuning in: Running back Saquon Barkley of the Giants ranks second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, and Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley is tied for the NFL lead with six touchdown catches. These may not be great teams, but they should make for entertaining football.
It’s just hard to imagine the Falcons hitting the bye at 2-5 after already having played five home games. This truly is a must-win if they want to get their season back on track. They’ll get it, but it will probably be closer than they would like.