Falcons vs. Jaguars Game Preview

Both the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars enter this Sunday's meeting losers of four straight games, including some serious opening day disappointments. The odds say that one team has to win this Sunday (thankfully), and both teams need this victory desperately, to maintain much hope of a playoff berth, and to keep fan support. We're going to examine how these two teams stack up.

Atlanta offense: 21st overall (21st passing, 19th rushing) vs. Jacksonville defense: 22nd overall (1st passing, 32nd rushing)

Although numbers don't lie, they can be misleading. Especially through just one week of football. The Falcons finished as the top team in the NFL in rushing in 2006, thanks mostly to the efforts of running quarterback and convicted dog-killer, Mike Vick. The Falcons will likely try and dominate the line of scrimmage against the Jaguars as Tennessee did just a week earlier. The Falcons have a nice tandem of running backs in Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood, and a match-up to watch will be Falcons rookie guard Justin Blalock against the Jaguars powerful defensive tackles, either Henderson or Stroud.

Both teams offensively really seem to mirror each other- Nice set of running backs, quarterbacks with definite physical skills, but questions about their decision making, and underachieving wide receivers. The Falcons have an aging possession receiver in Joe Horn, to go along with their deep threats of Laurent Robinson and Roddy White. Tight end Alge Crumpler has been the Falcons leading receiver since 2004, and he continues to be a weapon in the passing game. Controlling the huddle is journeyman quarterback Joey Harrington, who despite having top three draft pick pedigree, has struggled in each of his three NFL stops (Detroit, Miami, and now Atlanta). Harrington has a strong arm, but takes chances and thus throws interceptions.

If the Falcons can run the ball with success, they will be play the Jaguars very close on Sunday, and could pull the upset.

Jacksonville offense: 20th overall (14th passing, 26th rushing) vs. Atlanta defense: 18th overall (9th passing, 23rd rushing)

The Jaguars will try again to establish the run against a Falcons defense that will likely commit to forcing quarterback David Garrard to beat them through the air. The Jaguars will try to run the football against a front four of rookie standout Jamaal Anderson, Jonathan Babineaux, Grady Jackson, and John Abraham. Jackson is injured and might miss the game, and if he does, former Jaguar Montavious Stanley may step in. The Falcons defensive ends are solid pass rushers, but can struggle in stopping the run. The Falcons starting linebacking corps of Michael Boley, Keith Brooking, and Demorrio Williams are solid, but unspectacular.

The Falcons secondary is headed up by two-time Pro Bowler DeAngelo Hall, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL. Playing opposite Hall will be Lewis Sanders, and the safeties are veteran Lawyer Milloy, and Chris Crocker. The Falcons secondary matches up well against the Jaguars starting receivers, Ernest Wilford and Dennis Northcutt.

The Falcons defense, as a whole, isn't as good as the Tennessee team that the Jaguars faced a week ago, but they did hold the Minnesota Vikings offense to just 10 points on opening day. The Jaguars should be able to move the ball on the ground against Atlanta's front seven, assuming they stick with the run.

Special teams

The Falcons special teams unit is made up of kicker Matt Prater, punter Michael Koenen, long snapper Boone Sturtz, and kick returner Adam Jennings. The Jaguars counter this week with John Carney, Adam Podlesh, Joe Zelenka, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Dennis Northcutt. The Falcons probably have a slight advantage on special teams due to their kicker, but neither team has many deficiencies.

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