Cornerback Chris Owens in the Falcons 23-20 win over the Raiders in Week 6
The Atlanta Falcons may be the only undefeated team left in the NFL in 2012, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect.
The Falcons have struggled to get wins in their last three games against sub-.500 teams.
Atlanta is coming out of its bye week, and folks around the NFL are looking for the Falcons, whose six wins have come against a pretty soft schedule, to prove their legitimacy.
If they plan to prove themselves and continue their win streak, the Falcons are going to have to improve on their defense for the following reasons.
The Oakland Raiders are just one of the teams under .500 the Falcons have played this season
The Falcons have had a relatively easy schedule in their unbeaten campaign this season. They’ve faced the entire AFC West. They played the Oakland Raiders in their most recent game, and the Falcons narrowly escaped with a 23-20 victory.
They beat the 1-5 Carolina Panthers in Week 4 by two points and the 3-4 Washington Redskins in Week 5.
This is all to say that the Falcons have yet to play a team that has a record better than .500.
Well for the next few weeks, that won’t change. The Falcons come out of their bye week and head to Philly in Week 8 to face the Eagles, who picked up a couple losses heading into their own week off.
In two weeks, they’re back on the road to face a re-energized New Orleans team that’s won two in a row. In the Saints’ last game, Drew Brees completed 27 of 37 passes for 377 yards and four TDs.
If that’s not a reason to improve your defense, I don’t know what is.
They still have to face the Cardinals (4-3, though their offense has struggled in three consecutive losses), Eli Manning’s Giants, and a Detroit Lions team that’s ranked second in the league in passing yards.
But what the team really needs to worry about is the opposing rush game. The Falcons allow an average of 144 yards rushing to their opponents. They gave up 474 total yards to the Raiders in Week 6. Had it not been for Oakland’s 110 penalty yards, the Falcons might have been handed their first loss of the year.
With the offenses the Falcons still have to go against in the second half, they’ll definitely need to improve their defense if they have any chance of staying undefeated.
Atlanta in its wildcard game against the Giants last season
Atlanta’s offensive line has struggled a little this season, allowing quarterback Matt Ryan to be sacked 13 times thus far. By the way, seven of those 13 sacks came in the Falcons’ game against the Panthers in Week 4.
The Falcons drafted two offensive linemen—Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes—to improve their OL from last season. That change hasn’t been of much help, though, as the team’s offense is still struggling because of the O-line.
The Falcons are one of the worst in the league in rushing yards, with just under 87 a game.
Of course the NFL is a passer-friendly league (Atlanta averages about 275 passing yards a game), but having a versatile offense never hurt anyone. And having a weak offensive line never helped anyone.
With that weak OL, it gives the Atlanta defense one more reason to step it up if they want to continue to win.
The Oakland Raiders ran for 149 yards against the Falcons in Week 6
Not only are the Falcons one of the worst in the NFL in gaining rush yards per game, they’re one of the worst in defending the rush as well.
Atlanta allows 143.8 yards rushing a game and gave up 199 rushing yards to the Panthers in Week 4. The team has allowed two players to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season.
DT Corey Peters, who hasn’t played this season due to a fractured foot, will finally be eligible to play this coming week against Philadelphia. He may be able to jump start the Falcons defense. Last season in 15 games as a starter, Peters had three sacks and an interception to go along with 26 tackles.
If the Falcons can defend the run better, they can stop relying so heavily on their opponents mistakes to win football games. With better run defense, the Falcons will be a more dominant team—one that actually has a chance to go undefeated this season.