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Previewing the Jets’ Opposition - Atlanta Falcons

Taking a look at the Jets’ week 13 opponent

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are looking to avoid a fifth straight loss on Sunday as they face the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons. Despite being top of their division, the Falcons are only 5-6 and have lost 11 of their last 13 on the road dating back to last year. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Falcons are favored by 2 points in this game.

Quarterbacks

Falcons starter Desmond Ridder is 5-4 as a starter this year, but he’s been inconsistent. Other than Mac Jones and Zach Wilson, Ridder is the only quarterback in the NFL to have attempted more than 250 passes and have more interceptions than touchdown passes.

Ridder had back-to-back 300-yard games in October but otherwise hasn’t been over 250 passing yards all year. He has rushed for four touchdowns though.

Backup Taylor Heinicke made two starts in place of Ridder when Ridder was benched earlier in the season, but the Falcons lost both games. Logan Woodside is also on the roster as the number three, but he hasn’t seen action.

Offensive Line

The Falcons have been remarkably healthy on the offensive line, especially when compared to the Jets. None of their starters have missed a start and in fact, the only one to miss any snaps was right tackle Kaleb McGary. Storm Norton played 40 snaps off the bench in relief of McGary.

The offensive line is anchored by Chris Lindstrom, who is one of the league’s best guards. He lines up to the right of center Drew Dalman, who won the job from Matt Hennessy last season. Hennessy went on injured reserve in preseason.

The left guard is second round rookie Matthew Bergeron, and veteran Jake Matthews is the left tackle. Matthews is in his 10th season with the Falcons and hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year.

Other than Norton, the only backup lineman on the roster to see action this year has been Ryan Neuzil, who has played four snaps as a sixth lineman. Kyle Hinton and seventh round rookie Jovaughn Gwyn are also on the roster.

Running Backs

Rookie sensation Bijan Robinson, the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, has over 700 rushing yards, 32 receptions and a team-high six total touchdowns. However, he hasn’t had a 100-yard game since October 1st.

The Falcons do a good job of getting reserves Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson to share the workload. Last Sunday was the Falcons’ best rushing performance of the season as a team, as they ended up with 228 yards. Patterson averages almost five yards per carry but Allgeier only averages 3.5.

Fullback Keith Smith plays about 15 snaps per game as a blocking back but rarely gets offensive touches.

Pass catchers

The 6’ 4” wide receiver Drake London is the Falcons’ leading pass catcher with 45 receptions, but tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith have combined for 72 catches between them too. It’s arguably been a disappointing year for Pitts, who was a pro bowler in 2021.

Mack Hollins is the other starter at wide receiver, but he only has 17 catches and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. KhaDarel Hodge only has 11 catches, but he has shown some big play potential as he averages over 18 yards per catch to lead the team.

Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller and third string tight end MyCole Pruitt all have less than 10 catches. Another tight end, John FitzPatrick, is on the roster but he’s mostly a special teamer.

The Falcons have also elevated Parker Hesse off the practice squad for this game to add depth at tight end.

Defensive Line

The Falcons’ defensive line took a major hit when Grady Jarrett went onto injured reserve a month ago. At that stage, they hadn’t given up 120 rushing yards since the opener, but since then they’ve allowed more than 120 rushing yards in four straight games, and an average of 140 per game without Jarrett in the lineup. Interestingly, though, they haven’t given up a touchdown run to a running back since last November.

Atlanta lists Calais Campbell, Albert Huggins and David Onyemata as their starters on the defensive interior, although Campbell - who almost signed with the Jets in the offseason - will often line up on the edge.

Onyemata is having a good year as he leads the team with 13 quarterback hits and has played well against the run. He’s also racked up 3.5 sacks, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Backups Kentavius Street and Ta’Quon Graham also usually get plenty of reps inside while third round rookie Zach Harrison sees action on the edge.

Joe Gaziano and Travis Bell are on the roster but have yet to contribute. Bell is a rookie who was drafted in the seventh round by the Bears.

Linebackers

The Falcons operate out of a 3-4 base with Arnold Ebiketie and Bud Dupree listed as the starters outside and Lorenzo Carter backing them up. Ebiketie leads the team with 4.5 sacks while Dupree has three.

Nate Landman and Kaden Elliss are the starters inside. Elliss, who plays a full-time role, leads the team with six tackles for loss. Landman was initially backing up last year’s second round pick Troy Andersen, but Andersen went onto injured reserve early in the season.

Reserves DeAngelo Malone and Andre Smith have basically just played on special teams so far this season, as the Falcons hardly ever have three linebackers on the field.

Ex-Jets linebacker Milo Eifler is on the practice squad and has been elevated for Sunday’s game.

Defensive Backs

The Falcons’ secondary is led by Jessie Bates III, who leads them in tackles (85), interceptions (four) and forced fumbles (three). Bates had a 92-yard pick-six on Sunday.

The other starting safety is Richie Grant, and seventh round rookie DeMarcco Hellams often sees action in three-safety sets. Another rookie safety, fourth rounder Clark Phillips, and Micah Abernathy haven’t seen much action on defense.

At cornerback, AJ Terrell and Jeff Okudah start on the outside with Dee Alford in the slot. Terrell leads the team with nine pass breakups.

They have plenty of experience in reserve too, as Mike Hughes and Tre Flowers have both seen action.

Special Teams

Kicker Younghoe Koo has been crucial to the Falcons’ success this year, as he hit game-winners in three of their five wins. Koo has only missed one field goal and one extra point all season.

Punter Bradley Pinion, who also handles kickoff duties, is currently the top ranked punter according to Pro Football Focus, but it’s not obvious to see why. He’s given up the 8th highest return yardage total in the league and his raw numbers are poor.

The Falcons haven’t had much success in the return game, where Alford is listed as the primary punt returner and Patterson is listed as the kickoff returner with Hughes backing up both spots.

In punt coverage, Hodge, Hollins and Flowers have all seen work as primary gunners. Hellams, FitzPatrick and Malone have also contributed well in kick coverage.