Sunday Slate: Analyzing Week 16

By
Andy Benoit
· More from Andy·

Monday night
Falcons (4-10) at 49ers (10-4), 8:40 p.m., ESPN

Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
The Bucs forced Colin Kaepernick to his left last week, and the Falcons would be wise to do the same. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)

49ers offense vs. Falcons defense

Last week, the Buccaneers shaped their pass rush around forcing Colin Kaepernick to move to his left. Kaepernick responded decently, but his unrefined mechanics and footwork will make him a week-to-week proposition against these sort of tightly focused defensive tactics. If the Falcons want to influence where Kaepernick moves, they’ll have to blitz, as their defensive line, unlike Tampa’s, can’t be counted on to win individual matchups off the edge.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was recently demoted to backup duties, as the Falcons continue to insert more youth into the starting lineup. Promoted second-year man Jonathan Massaquoi is probably an upgrade anyway, as he’s bigger and just as explosive. Massaquoi’s limited experience on running downs is a concern, though, particularly against a creative, high-volume ground game like San Francisco’s.

The same concern applies to undrafted rookie linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Both are fluid in space, but both can get tied up in blocks. Especially Worrilow, whose great tackle numbers are primarily a function of circumstance. Remember, almost every play ends in a tackle, so the stats have to go to someone. In Atlanta’s case, they go to a rookie linebacker who makes a lot of stops downfield.

Andrew Snook/Icon SMI
With two wins in their last three games, the Falcons are now 4-10. (Andrew Snook/Icon SMI)

Falcons offense vs. 49ers defense

Aldon Smith is gradually regaining his monstrous form. The destructiveness he showed against the Bucs last week should continue this week, as he’ll often go up against slow-footed left tackle Lamar Holmes. Lately, the Niners have used Smith more as a standup nickel defensive tackle for added dimension in their stunt game.

There’s a more alarming mismatch opposite Smith, with Ahmad Brooks (who deserves All-Pro honors this season) working against Ryan Schraeder. The undrafted rookie right tackle is playing as part of Atlanta’s end-of-the-year youth movement. Like previous starter Jeremy Trueblood, Schraeder lacks the lower body strength to sustain against bull rushers.

If—and this is a big if—Matt Ryan has time to throw, he’ll be looking for Tony Gonzalez. With a secondary that’s healthy and deeper since the emergence of corners Tramaine Brock and Eric Wright, the Niners have diversified their coverages. Will they use their depth and diversity to zero in on Gonzalez? Or, will they take their usual approach and just let Patrick Willis battle the future Hall of Famer?

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19 comments
RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

Fortunately the Ravens running game resembles a dumpster fire, otherwise the Pats would be screwed. We need to shut down Dennis Pitta, when he is taken out of the game and held in check, the Ravens offense is quite different. Ravens red zone woes would have to end this week if they were to win. On the flip side, look for the Pats to line up in 3WR with Shane Vereen and Amendola in the slot, and Ridley in the backfield to make up for the loss of Gronkowski. Aaron Dobson's return will bring some resemblance of a red zone and deep threat, perhaps that will help with the struggles in the red zone the Ravens had last week. A struggle between 2 teams that may meet again in the AFC title game, will come down to whoever makes the least mistakes.

Pats 23

Ravens 20

DanLeeper
DanLeeper

Andy Benoit, so your "analyzing" this game, both very good teams ???  " Seattle has a great coaching staff, but Arizona’s has been the NFL’s best this season. Click here to read why. " What happened to the game? Never let it be said that you didn't do the lest you could. Sorry but your "analyzing" the game is a let down at best.

Randall_Pink
Randall_Pink

I look forward to the next pre-season next year when the Cowboys are yet again predicted to win the division and post double digit wins despite the fact that in the offseason they won't have addressed any of their issues in the draft or free agency. You know, like this season, last season, the season before that, etc.  I don't get why the Cowboys are expected to win when they haven't in....how long? In other news I love it. I almost miss living in Dallas and hearing all the locals root for *insert winning team bandwagon*. Almost.

George
George

I doubt Jerry's boys will be going anywhere in the playoffs,

and it's likely Garrett-Top will be looking for another job for next year.


Too bad the "gm" is sticking around.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

"The Cowboys hung 26 points on the Packers in the first half by calling 28 passes and 11 runs. Nobody griped about the unbalanced play-calling then."


Well, yeah, but when you have the lead in the second half you RUN THE BALL to use up the clock. Football 101. Play calling lost that game. Period.

Donald13
Donald13

Sad that you censor the truth but keep crap journalism like this. Truth hurts doesn't it Andy.

Donald13
Donald13

Do have any idea what you are talking about?  The Packers couldn't stop the run at all.  If you're up by 23 in the second half and your running game is firing on all cylinders, that is what you go to.  Grind out yardage and eat the clock.  You want to keep the Packer's offence off the field as much as possible.

Shooter McGavin 19711
Shooter McGavin 19711

Another Jason Garrett apologist.  What a joke.  Blaming Romo is laughable, and pointing out how the Cowboys put up 26 points in the first half misses the point.  Dallas was terrible on offense in the second half - and that's all about adjustments.  And the QB doesn't make adjustments.  Just like the loss in Detroit, this loss exposed Garrett once again as in well over his head. 


Yes, Tony Romo has problems - but he's not the coach in charge of the D (that's Garrett, no matter who is going to blame Kiffin).  And Garrett calls the plays.  So yeah, running all of seven times in the second half against Green Bay was another mistake.



westcoastbias
westcoastbias

Great Lead!  I was chuckling even before I got to the insight.  But Andy, you talk like Tony Romo makes mistakes when it matters!?!  That can't be - the Cowboys just agreed to pay him $108 million dollars.  One Hundred Eight Million Dollars. Think about that.  Professional talent evaluators disagree with you.  Apologize.

GreenFresh
GreenFresh

I appreciate these previews, but why do you always devote so much attention to the Monday night game? A lot of times -- including this week -- it's not particularly interesting. Why not highlight the best game of the weekend?

morejunk
morejunk

@Shooter McGavin 19711 

"Tony Romo has problems..."  Massive understatement.  Yes Garrett stinks and needs to go but Romo needs to go with him.

Romo reminds me of what Bill Walsh said about Steve DeBerg: "He plays just good enough to get you beat."

kinsmen68
kinsmen68

@morejunk @Shooter McGavin 19711 I get why you might think Romo is worth replacing, but who would you plan to replace him with? Tim Tebow? Brandon Weeden? Name one QB that can be better for the Cowboys than Romo and who is also attainable. Bear in mind too that without Romo at the helm, the Cowboys probably wouldn't be in playoff contention. 

kinsmen68
kinsmen68

@morejunk @kinsmen68 @Shooter McGavin 19711  First, I did read your whole post originally. You said, "This is better than Romo because Romo is just good enough to make smart people think he can get the job done but in reality he can't." 

To me, this read as though you were insinuating Tebow would be a better option than Romo. 


Second, please offer more explanation for how Tony Romo "sucks" as you eloquently put. What is your standard for good, bad, awesome, sucky, etc. Is it statistics? QBR? win percentage? My guess is that you believe wins, playoff appearances, and championships are most important, but I may be wrong about that. 


Third, I agree about the JJ problem. I think everybody does. He has been a poor GM. But, I disagree that his worst fault as a GM is that he "makes crappy deals with choker QBs." 

You even just admitted that Dallas should buy a better team (if only it was that easy) and that they could then rely on a more "clutch" yet average QB. This says to me that you agree the whole team needs fixing, not just the QB.


And finally, yes, I do think the Patriots got lucky. Do you think they plan(ned) to find their franchise, hall-of-fame, potentially greatest of all-time QBs in the 6th round? I do not think so. I agree that there is always a chance, but that is not always a viable approach for any franchise. Look at all of the teams that go years and decades at a time without ever settling on a franchise QB. The Dolphins post-Marino are a great example (and yes, I understand that poor management and evaluation can attribute to this, hence, why nobody likes JJ as the GM). 


To stick with Romo is a gamble, but so is cleaning house and trying to rebuild or to take your chances on finding a Super Bowl caliber QB in the draft. Maybe that's just the difference between you and me: I'd rather stick with the "known" than the "unknown". And, to say he could never win when it matters is a fairly bold statement (people said similar things about Peyton Manning and if you're an NBA fan, Lebron James).

morejunk
morejunk

@kinsmen68@morejunk@Shooter McGavin 19711 

No, as I stated clearly... THEY BOTH SUCK.  (Actually read the whole thing next time)


Dallas' problem is management.  JJ runs the show so Dallas gets crappy coaches, makes crappy deals with choker QBs, can't spot talent to save their lives and "cut your loses" must be all buzzes and pops in their ears.  They think they have to keep Romo because "who else is out there????"  And quite frankly if you're going to spend all that money (as they did for Romo) buy a good TEAM and you can win big with a CLUTCH but B-/B QB (see Flacco, Joe).

Football teams are like fish, they rot from the head.  I'm guessing you think NE just got lucky with Brady.

morejunk
morejunk

@kinsmen68@morejunk@Shooter McGavin 19711  

"Playoff contention", oh let's see:

2006: Romo botches the hold.

2007: Interception

2008: Playoffs?  That's funny.  Destroyed by Philly because I guess Romo just liked Philly's jersey that night.

2009: Hey! Romo wins one only to fumble the ball 3 times (and throw a pick) to lose to the Vikings next game.

2010: Nope (injured)

2011: Nope

2012: Nope


So basically Tebow and Romo have the same playoff record (though at least Tebow lost to a good team).  Now bear in mind Tebow is a terrible QB but Romo is worse.  Tebow has terrible mechanics, terrible reads, terrible pocket presence and he plays QB like a RB.  This is better than Romo because Romo is just good enough to make smart people think he can get the job done but in reality he can't.  Tebow's problems (Weeden's as well) are right in your face, nice and easy to see.


As for the replacement:  Have the GM do his job (I know HA HA HA).  Tom Brady was drafted at the low 100s.  Kurt Warner was bagging groceries in the Arena league.  Canada liked passing so much they made the field bigger.  The point is that just because there is not an OBVIOUS replacement for Romo does NOT mean that the Cowboys shouldn't replace him now and rebuild.

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