But I’ve got to make a pick, and in trying to figure it out, I keep coming back to one thing: The Chiefs are 4-0 this season against teams that fit the Falcons’ profile of being in the top 10 in scoring but also yielding a lot of points.
Maclin had been listed as questionable against the Falcons on Friday's injury report, but the Chiefs downgraded him to out.
I will probably write a story about this this week, but after talking to some players and coaches, and I can tell you it boils down to a few things. No. 1, a full-time no-huddle has the potential to wear down a Chiefs defense that has been carrying the team to this point, particularly if the offense — which has struggled to consistently execute — doesn't get first downs early. The margin for error in this league is small, which means tired players can get you beat.
First of all, you can run on these guys. Philadelphia did it two weeks ago, and the Falcons defensive line has even turned to a backup center (Ben Garland) at times to improve a shaky run defense. The inside linebackers are fast but young, and the Falcons will also miss some tackles — 85, the fifth-most in the league, according to Pro Football Focus — so the opportunity for some big plays will be there.
"There’s times when a big win can more dangerous than a tough loss to rebound off of," Smith explained. "Especially a big game in the division on national TV with everyone talking about it. Can we be mentally tough enough to handle the success and can we focus down and do all the little things this week? We got back late Monday morning. Can we handle that with going on the road again?
Down Jeremy Maclin and Dontari Poe, the Chiefs are still an imposing foe with one of the better defenses in the NFL, and I wouldn’t be completely stunned if their defense actually ends up getting one of their scores for them. The offense, though, can’t keep up if the Falcons get rolling, and with a pretty healthy offense that just destroyed the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, I think Atlanta will get more than 30 in this one. Should be a fun game, but one the Falcons will win.
Marcus Peters is a bit of a gambler, but he has 13 interceptions and 41 pass deflections over his first two seasons in the league. That likely means that Julio’s going to burn him a handful of times, but he could very well come down with a costly pick against the Falcons if Ryan’s willing to challenge him throughout the day. I’m hopeful that Julio gets on track in a big way, but Atlanta does need to be wary about one of the league’s most dynamic young cornerbacks.
In all my years covering the Falcons for this august website, I can count on one hand the number of times something has gone so hilariously and perfectly against expectations as the time Warren Sapp predicted the Falcons would lose Week 1 of the 2012 season by a score of 41-0.
Kelce isn’t just a massively underrated thrower of towels, he’s also a pretty darn good tight end. He leads the Chiefs with 675 receiving yards this season and has great body control and route-running ability.
Since Matt Ryan arrived in Atlanta, he has only played the Chiefs twice, once in Kansas City and once in Atlanta, and he has won both of those games with a great completion percentage (71.4 percent) and has thrown zero interceptions with four touchdowns. Matt Ryan also has one (!!) rushing touchdown against the Chiefs in those two games.
"It’s that time of the season you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and if you’re in position to strike, I don’t think you can afford to take games off," Reid said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s NFC, AFC; all the games are important. So, to maintain our focus, our intensity, our health and all those things are important this time of the year."
"He’s the best returner that I’ve seen in awhile," Armstrong said. "He can do it all. He’s fast. He’s quick. Explosive. Can make a ton of people miss. A really good returner."