After losing a key home game to the Chicago Bears last week, the Atlanta Falcons – riding a three-game losing streak – hit the road again to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens (4-2) are fresh off a 48-17 blowout win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Joe Flacco tossed a career-high five touchdown passes in the victory.
Atlanta (2-4) has yet to record a win on the road, and they’ve lost those three games by an average of 12.3 points while scoring an average of 19.3.
In fact, Atlanta’s next four games – including this week’s matchup – are all away from the Georgia Dome. Following the game against the Ravens, the Falcons travel to London to host the Detroit Lions in what counts as a home game.
The Falcons will need to cease surrendering big plays on defense if they want to give themselves a chance to secure their first road win. Against the Bears, the defense gave up plays of 74, 47, 26, 25, and 20.
Being unable to get off the field on third down has been a common theme for the Falcons defense as opponents are able to successfully convert 47 percent of those third down attempts.
The Falcons did show a rare ability to get after the passer, however. Jay Cutler was sacked two times, putting Atlanta at six on the season. But Cutler was still able to pass for 381 yards, a touchdown, and no turnovers.
On offense, Matt Ryan has had to do work from a muddled pocket for the past two games.
Rookie left tackle Jake Matthews has been playing through an injured ankle, and it is glaringly obvious. Third-year player Peter Konz was given another shot at center following Joe Hawley’s season-ending injury against the Minnesota Vikings, but he hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity.
It’s key for the offensive line to keep Ryan upright. It’s also on his receivers to catch the ball. Against the Bears, Julio Jones, Levine Toilolo, and Roddy White all combined for seven dropped passes.
But the run game needs to show up, too. Atlanta strayed away from the ground game, rushing just 13 times for only 42 yards.
Atlanta may not have any success rushing against the Ravens, either. Baltimore has the league’s seventh-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 90.2 yards per game.
They also allow 16.2 points per game – good for third-best in the league. That isn’t an ideal matchup for an Atlanta offense that, as mentioned previously, averages 19.3 points per game on the road.
Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall gave the Falcons secondary fits. Although Steve and Torrey Smith are much smaller compared to the Bears’ giant receivers, they do bring an element of speed.
Against the Bucs, both Smiths combined for nine catches, 161 yards, and three touchdowns. Torrey Smith burst on the 2014 scene with a pair of touchdowns after being largely quiet this season. Steve Smith – at 35 years of age – has been having great year with 35 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.
Regardless of how Atlanta’s played on the road this season and through their last three games, the Ravens are a tough matchup. If you add in the Falcons’ struggles, then it’s difficult to predict a win here. I had the Falcons losing this game in my predictions and I’m sticking to that prediction.