A Stiff Test for the Falcons Thursday Against the Division Leading Saints

Thursday night the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons have a critical NFC South matchup in New Orleans against the upstart New Orleans Saints, a team that has played better than most expected they would in 2017.

The Falcons enter Thursday’s huge game at 7-5, two games back of the first-place Saints for first in the division. A loss with four games left and you can pretty much kiss a repeat of winning the division good-bye.

The fact the Saints have played so well at home is probably part of the reason they sit at one-point favorites for Thursday’s huge game with the Falcons.

Keep up with that line and get updated on the latest NFL matches at William Hill.

On Monday Falcons coach Dan Quinn said starting left cornerback Desmond Trufant has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to return to practice, a huge lift for a team that has at times had major issues stopping the pass.

The good news is that Trufant will play against the Saints on Thursday night, this after missing Sunday’s 14-9 loss to Minnesota after being hit by teammate Keanu Neal in a win over Tampa Bay back on November 26th in a win.

Seldom-used cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson started at left cornerback for the Falcons, and while he hung in there, it will be a lift for the defensive secondary to get Trufant back.

The other key will be the Falcons ability to stop the two-headed monster at running back for the Saints – that being out of nowhere star in the making Alvin Kamara and former first-round pick Mark Ingram.

These two backs have made the Saints maybe the best running team in the league in 2017, something that no one could have ever seen coming for a team with Drew Brees at quarterback.

What the run game has done for the Saints is open up Brees to throwing more short passes, and also it’s taken the heat off of him from a standpoint of putting the pressure on the offensive line protecting Brees.

Atlanta will have to come up with schemes on defense to take both Ingram and Kamra and make them as ineffective as possible. If they can do that, it will put the pressure back on Brees, and will give the Falcons the best chance to win.

Each week is a playoff game now for the Falcons, and Thursday’s game is by far the biggest of the season for a team that has by many accounts underperformed in 2017.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan Says Bringing Up 2016 Does the Team No Good

After returning nine of 11 starters from 2016, most expected the Falcons to seamlessly transition under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

The change has been anything but smooth as Atlanta has been particularly inefficient during the latest three-game skid, scoring 13.7 points per game.

After soaring to an MVP with last season’s output, Matt Ryan has crashed back to Earth. Ryan’s passer rating has fallen by 27.8 points from last season (117.1 in 2016, 89.3 in 2017), the biggest drop-off of any qualified quarterback this season. The QB is tired of comparing last year’s offense to the 2017 version, Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports.

“We have to find a way for this team to play the way that we’re capable of as a team,” Ryan said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We can’t worry about last year. I know that constantly gets brought up, but as players we are not thinking about last year.

“We are not playing good enough as a unit in 2017. Frankly, I don’t really care to go back to 2016. It’s not useful for us.”

Despite the struggles, Ryan insists the offense is ready to explode at any moment.

“I think we are close,” Ryan said. “Honestly, when we look at it, we are close, but you have to be precise in this league. Really precise.”

Falcons vs Jets Wednesday Injury Report

ATLANTA FALCONS at NEW YORK JETS
ATLANTA FALCONS
Practice Report
  DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE
Wednesday LB Duke Riley (knee), LB Jordan Tripp (concussion)
  LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday RB Tevin Coleman (knee), LB Deion Jones (ankle), DE Courtney Upshaw (ankle)
NEW YORK JETS
Practice Report
  DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE
Wednesday TE Jordan Leggett (knee), T Brandon Shell (neck), CB Buster Skrine (concussion), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, foot)
  LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday WR Robby Anderson (ankle)
  FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday T Kelvin Beachum (knee), G James Carpenter (shoulder), CB Morris Claiborne (ankle), DE Kony Ealy (shoulder), RB Matt Forte (knee), S Marcus Maye (back), QB Josh McCown (back), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring), DE Leonard Williams (wrist), G Brian Winters (abdomen)

Check Out Julio Jones’ Awesome Footwear for Sunday’s Game Against the Bills

Falcons wide out Julio Jones has already won NFL week four without ever playing a down, thanks in part to the shoes he’s sporting for today’s game at home against the Buffalo Bills.

The shoes pay props to wrestling superstar Ric Flair, who is a huge Falcons supporter and recently underwent a major health scare that had him in a medically induced coma.

Jones’ shoes are sure to catch a pretty penny if he decided to sell them off to charity at some point.

Ryan Leads Falcons to Two Big 4th Quarter Drives as Atlanta Tops Chicago 23-17

It took the 2017 Falcons to look like the 2016 Falcons, but Matt Ryan played like an MVP in the fourth quarter, doing enough to lead two scoring drives to help Atlanta to a 23-17 win over a gritty Chicago Bears team.

Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and also led another drive which eventually lead to a Matt Bryant field goal, helping the Falcons get the six-point win.

The MVP from a season ago threw for 321 yards, but overall there has to be some concern about an offense that really took awhile to get going on a day when they wanted to put their Super Bowl hangover away once and for all.

“We won the game and at the end of the day that’s why we prepare all week,” Ryan said. “Can we play better? Absolutely. Are we going to try to work on that? Absolutely. But we’ll take a win every day.”

The pass to Hooper that was so wild in the fact how wide open the tight end was, it was stunning that he was sitting in the middle of the field open waiting for Ryan’s pass to get there.

“I feel like I lived a lifetime in my head when the ball was in the air. I’m not even kidding. I think I blacked out for part of it,” Hooper said.

New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has his work cut out for him in making the Falcons offense a more well oiled machine on a weekly basis, for this week they were good enough to get past a Bears team that likely will be in the rear in the NFC North.

“We knew (the running game) would be a challenge, they’re stout and they’re square,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of the Bears defense.

“We didn’t anticipate that much of a challenge, we thought we’d get it going eventually. Today, we didn’t have the space we thought we’d have.”

Hopefully that space will come more in next week’s home opener in front of a National TV audience against the Packers.

Falcons vs Bears NFL Week One Inactives

The Falcons have declared OT Austin Pasztor, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RB Brian Hill, LB Jordan Tripp, WR Nick Williams, OG Sean Harlow, S Sharrod Neasman inactive for Week 1.

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman Ruled Out for Saturday’s Preseason Game

Falcons coach Dan Quinn ruled out running back Devonta Freeman for Saturday’s exhibition against the Arizona Cardinals as Freeman goes through the final stages of the concussion protocol, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports.

Freeman, who was injured in practice, didn’t travel for this past Sunday’s exhibition at Pittsburgh after playing in the first exhibition at Miami. He ran sprints on a side field during Tuesday’s practice.

“He’s doing well,” Quinn said about Freeman. “He’s going to visit with the independent part of the protocol come up here soon. He won’t play in this ball game. He won’t practice today. He’s back to full-speed running. But it’s soon that he’ll be back participating full speed in practice. But you won’t see him suited up for this weekend.”

Falcons Running Back Devonta Freeman in Concussion Protocol; Won’t Play vs Steelers

The Falcons are set to take on the Steelers in the second week of preseason this upcoming week, and will do so without the services of running back Devonta Freeman, who Monday was placed in the league’s concussion protocol on Monday.

Coach Dan Quinn said that Freeman was held out of practice as well on Monday.

Freeman started practice on Sunday, but left about an hour and 20 minutes in the practice. He walked off the field under his own power with a member of the training staff alongside.

“I didn’t think he was going to come back,” Quinn said after practice on Sunday. “He had some heat stuff that he dealt with from the first practice and again (Sunday.)”

Freeman received fluids after going inside.

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