I wrote once upon a time that I would consider it progress if the Browns had the same record as last year, but looked competitive. To that end, I consider this team improved. Not only have they earned their first win a week quicker, but their three losses have been by a total of 12 points, compared to last season where their first three losses were a combined 66 points. This week they take on the Dirty Birds from the A-T-L. Ahh ha / hush dat fuss / everybody move to the back of the bus.
The Browns have another winnable game, but this one will not be easy. The Falcons have a solid offense, and are fifth in the league in total yards, 10th in passing yards, fourth in rushing yards, and ninth in points. In other words, the Browns need to sack up on defense. Both teams are middle-of-the-road on defense, as the Falcons are 16th-best (Browns 22nd) in yards-allowed. Atlanta is more vulnerable to the pass than to the run, yet they still are very good in scoring defense with just 15.0 ppg allowed. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they choose to play more conservatively on defense. I can’t believe after Romeo Crennel I am willing to say this. The Browns need to let the secondary play and allow the d-line and LBs to provide the pressure. If they gamble on the secondary blitzes again this week, Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan will kill the Browns by themselves.
Scott: …they can find a way to get the wide receivers involved without sacrificing too much of the run game. Last week, we saw the Browns work the skinny posts with the tight ends. While I had used Jerome Harrison in that regard in last week’s BWWI post, having tight ends that provide a mismatch works just as well. However, I think that the Falcons will be stacking the box early and often, hoping to toss a few road blocks in Peyton Hillis’ way. It will be up to Jake Delhomme to utilize the wide receivers (just as early and often) to spread the field and allow more running room for whomever Daboll decides to use in the backfield. On the defensive side, while the secondary has still be roughed up a bit, I’m comfortable with what they’ve been doing – mixing up the blitz schemes, forcing fumbles, the whole nine. Again, though ATL has several playmakers on offense, I think this one comes down to who makes fewer mistakes. It doesn’t have to be pretty – just efficient.
DP: …they keep building on the momentum of the past two games. The running game has been solid the past two weeks (moreso against the Ravens, but they ran when they needed to against the Nasty on Sunday), and one can only hope that the return of Jake Delhomme opens up the passing game just a bit. The Falcons are much better against the run on defense than they are against the pass. I’d like to see the Browns get Evan Moore more (heh) involved in the offense. His TD catch last week was on a very well-run route. He and Ben Watson combine to provide a great TE presence, and that can be used to set up the WRs with single coverage… maybe they can actually get open for a change. I’d like to see Brian Daboll wearing his Big Boy Pants enough to mix up some Flash/Cyclone looks that the Falcons won’t have seen on film. On defense, the Browns’ rushing defense has been good but not great, but good enough to win considering the backs they’ve faced the past two weeks. They have to be that good again. My hope is that they roll the coverage to Roddy White like they did against Chad Johnson (I won’t call him the other name) last week, and that there’s no corresponding TO in Atlanta’s WR corps. They did a good enough job against Jermaine Gresham (5 for 35) that I’m hoping they can slow down Tony Gonzalez. It’s going to take a complete effort to get it done.
Rick: …they keep it going. The Browns found the recipe for success last week, and it has everything to do with controlling the ball. Getting the running game going and not turning over the football are the most pressing issues with this team. Whether Delhomme is under center or Wallace the key has to be using the pass to set up the run, and using the strength of the team (the left side of the line) to move the football. Atlanta is good. The Browns will have to make them one dimensional, and I imagine they will try to take away the Falcons’ ground game. If they can succeed in doing so, they will be in this ball game. Going into the season I thought Atlanta was a real contender for the NFC slot in the Super Bowl. That hasn’t revealed itself yet this season. Let’s hope they don’t look like it starting Sunday.
Andrew: …Jake Delhomme wins the QB battle vs Matt Ryan. It’s easy to inflate the Browns’ chances of winning this game coming off a feel good win against the Bengals. With this game being at home, it feels really easy to say that if the Browns just take care of the ball they’ll have a shot to win this game. But the fact is, the Falcons are a better team than I think most people realize. They run the ball better than the Browns (144.8 yds/game vs 116.5), they pass the ball better (233.5 yds vs 193.0 yds), they defend the run better (96.3 yds vs 108.8 yds), and they defend the pass better (224.0 yds vs 235.8 yds). If the Falcons are vulnerable anywhere, though, it’s their pass defense, and that’s why Jake Delhomme needs to outplay Matt Ryan for the Browns to win this game. Ideally Peyton Hillis will have another strong game, but to beat a team like the Falcons, Delhomme will not only have to not turn the ball over, but he will also have to make some big plays. This game is by no means un-winnable, but I suspect the Browns can’t just hang on to a victory in this game, they’re going to have to make some plays to win.
Now, for the other side of the coin. Adam Schultz is an editor and writer for The Falcoholic, an Atlanta Falcons blog. When not screaming at Mike Mularkey to liven up his play calling, Adam produces and hosts Courage and Fight: The Atlanta Falcons Fans’ Podcast. His non-football related activities include writing reviews and articles for the heavy metal website TheNewReview.net, playing guitar, and working a day job. He can be found on twitter via the @AdamLSchultz.Without further ado…
The Falcons Will Win If…
…they show up. Only joking! The key for the Falcons is to start hard and strong from their first possession. Anything less than a touchdown on their first drive could spell trouble. Against the 49ers and Saints (to a degree), the Falcons’ vaunted offense seemed mired; a slow offensive start is precisely why the 49ers led the Falcons for 99% of the game last Sunday. The same goes with the Saints and Steelers games. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Falcons scored just about every time they had possession against the Cardinals, from the first drive on. The Falcons play with an offensive swagger; that rhythm is tantamount to their success.
Of course, playing slowly only comes natural to a team built to run the ball and play extremely physical in the trenches. Getting Michael Turner room to run and make things happen is a major goal for the Falcons, though with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez at his disposal, Matt Ryan will obviously be given some chances to throw.
The Falcons’ defense is fast and swarms to the ball well, though there can be some holes along the defensive lines. Our linebacking corps has been phenomenal against the run and our secondary (with the exclusion of D’unta Robinson) has been very opportunistic.
Another thing that frankly scares me as a Falcons fan is Jake Delhomme. As a Panther, Delhomme always seemed to have our secondary’s number. One need only look at last year’s Falcons game in Carolina to see how he just doesn’t seem himself against the Falcons. He always seems better. Controlling the line of scrimmage and getting Delhomme on his rear early and often will help keep his “I’m playing the Falcons, so I’m going to transform into Steve Young” antics at bay.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?