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Atlanta ready for a tough road trip to San Francisco

Can the Atlanta Falcons get back on track against the San Francisco 49ers?

We’ve been here before, writing the Falcons should beat their next opponent. We said it the Thursday they played the Saints, and we said it last week before they played the Buccaneers.

But they didn’t. The Falcons lost two games they should have won in two bad performances.

Atlanta (6-2) now travels out west this Sunday for a game against the struggling San Francisco 49ers (2-6). Again, this is a game the Falcons should win.

Atlanta’s offense has struggled. After averaging 32.4 points per game in the first five games of the season (all wins), the Falcons have scored just 51 points (17 points per game) in the last three games (two wins and one loss).

Now they play a San Francisco team that has benched its starting quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) and traded a leading receiver (tight end Vernon Davis). Defensively, the 49ers are rated 29th in total defense, 23rd in rushing defense (allowing 123.8 yards per game) and 27th in pass defense (allowing 280 yards per game).

Blaine Gabbert will now start for San Francisco. He has not played so far this season. The former top pick for Jacksonville, Gabbert will replace Kaepernick, who has only six touchdowns and five interceptions. The 49ers will rely on running back Carlos Hyde to compliment Gabbert. Hyde has 470 rushing yards on the season.

Gabbert will have two good targets, as receivers Anquan Boldin (372 yards) and Torrey Smith (342 yards) are having solid seasons for San Francisco.

The Falcons will need running back Devonta Freeman to have another good game. Freeman still leads the NFL in rushing with 709 yards, putting him on track for 1418 yards for the season since we are at the halfway point. Atlanta also has the leading receiver in the NFL, as Julio Jones has 892 receiving yards.

The stats are there, as Matt Ryan has the third-most passing yards in the NFL with 2399, but the production must be better. The offense has just stalled a bit in these last three games, but with the 49ers struggling on defense the Falcons do have a great chance to get back on track.

They need to, particularly with a long road trip out west and you know they do not want a second-straight loss going into the bye week. So this game is important. The Falcons not only need to win, but they need to play well. The last real game they played well was the win over Houston, when they won 48-21 in week four.

San Francisco is not a very good team, so the Falcons need to show they are a good team and win this road contest. They should, but we’ve said that before. It’s time for the Falcons to right themselves on the road out west.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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