The Raiders enter this contest with a 1-3 record and a minus-58 score differential. Other than Week 3’s 34-31 come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland would have nothing positive to draw out of this season.
If it weren’t for the Tennessee Titans’ Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden could be considered the league’s biggest disappointment at running back this season. His 201 rushing yards are padded by a 64-yard touchdown run in that Steelers game.
The Falcons, on the other hand, are neck and neck with the Houston Texans as the best team in the NFL. Both teams own 5-0 records heading into this weekend’s action. But as the Texans draw a dangerous—but flawed—Green Bay Packers team down in Houston, Atlanta gets a home game with the Raiders.
The Falcons don’t possess the gaudy statistics indicative of a dominant team (12th in total offense and 17th in defense). It is the efficiency at which they work, however, that sets the team apart from the rest of the league.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Sunday’s matchup:
Darren McFadden Rushes for 135 Yards and 1 Touchdown
McFadden is off to a slow start this season and a matchup with the Falcons—at least on the surface—doesn’t give the indication things will turnaround this week for the running back, either.
However, McFadden is a gifted runner, and it is only a matter of time before his numbers back up that claim.
The Falcons may be undefeated this season, but their run defense has nothing to do with the team’s success. Atlanta is allowing 142.8 yards on 5.4 yards per carry, good enough for 27th and 31st, respectively, in the league.
The fact that opposing runners are able to gash the Falcons defense at this rate is alarming, considering that teams have been forced to play catch-up against Atlanta all season long.
Whether the Raiders can hang with the Falcons on the scoreboard should have no effect on McFadden’s ability to rack up some serious numbers against this defense.
Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez Each Tally 80 Yards and 1 Touchdown
Speaking of Atlanta’s efficiency, the receiving trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez might be the most dangerous 1-2-3 punch in the entire NFL. Each player has at least 26 catches, 313 receiving yards and three touchdowns so far on the season.
Having that many trusted targets is allowing quarterback Matt Ryan to be on pace for his best season as a pro. His 106.1 passer rating and 13 touchdown passes are good for second in the league, and his 1,507 yards are third-best.
Ryan’s success comes with his ability to spread the ball around. With so many capable guys on the field for the quarterback to throw to, there is no wonder why the Falcons are so good.
The Raiders' pass defense comes in allowing 283 yards per game, which puts it at 28th in the league. If the better defenses in the NFL struggle against Atlanta’s well-organized attack, Oakland will certainly fail in doing so.