Raiders vs. Falcons: Another Big Test for Las Vegas’ Defense

Nicholas Cothrel
Las Vegas Raiders vs Falcons Matt Ryan

The Raiders enter Week 12 with a 6-4 record and an offense that’s clicking on all cylinders. But will the Las Vegas defense be able to capitalize on an Atlanta Falcons squad who struggled to score points in the week prior?

As the Raiders’ defense enters Week 12 still searching for its identity, they’ll face an Atlanta Falcons team with a plethora of playmakers and a veteran quarterback who has underachieved up to this point in the year. This matchup between the Raiders vs. Falcons pits a high-potential, underachieving offense against a young and disappointing defense.

Las Vegas Raiders vs Falcons Maurice Hurst
Raiders DT Maurice Hurst and his teammates will have their hands full with a Falcons offense that has underperformed but has a multitude of offensive weapons.

This week, the Raiders travel to Atlanta and will face a Falcons team that ranks second in passing yards per game (280.6 yards) and 23rd in rushing yards per game (101.3 yards). All signs align to a potential high-scoring affair as Derek Carr and the Las Vegas offense continue to drive the team’s success. But what about their counterparts of Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense?

While the Atlanta offense comes in as a top 10 unit, they’ve experienced a dry spell as of late. Last week against the New Orleans Saints, Matt Ryan and company only manufactured nine points en route to their seventh loss of the season. And over their last four contests, the Falcons have only exceeded 25 points or more just one time.

Is it any wonder coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were fired earlier in the year?

The Falcons, who have played better under interim head coach and former Jon Gruden protege Raheem Morris, have largely been reliant on their offense to stay in games this season. However, their conservative approach in the second half has been the telling sign of why their record is far from intriguing.

As far as the Raiders and their defensive performances, they held the reigning Super Bowl champions to 28 points for the better part of four quarters in Week 11. Only until quarterback Patrick Mahomes marched down the field in the final two minutes to cash in with a Travis Kelce touchdown to move their point total to 35 on the night.

Prior to the Raiders matchup against Kansas City, Las Vegas held opponents to an average of 14.6 points per game over their three-game win streak. The Falcons will test that defensive unit once again in a sneaky important game on the road for the visiting team.

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Falcons Julio Jones
Julio Jones is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, when he can stay on the field. Jones’ production has been disappointing for the Falcons.

Most recently in Week 11, the Raiders’ defense received the return of their 2020 first round pick Damon Arnette. Having Arnette available along with second-year cornerback Trayvon Mullen — will be instrumental to the team’s efforts in slowing down the duo of Falcons’ receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Arnette missed practice to start the week due to an illness but returned to the practice field for Las Vegas on Thanksgiving so it appears he’ll be ready for Sunday.

The Falcons are on pace to have two 1,000-yard receivers (Jones and Ridley), along with running back Todd Gurley, who’s on pace to record over 1,000 all-purpose yards and double-digit touchdowns. Atlanta has the playmakers to keep up with nearly any team offensively — it will just be a matter of what kind of defensive performance the Raiders show up with on Sunday.

Las Vegas Raiders vs Falcons Calvin Ridley
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) works against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Assuming linebacker Cory Littleton returns to the playing field after missing the last two weeks, and Maurice Hurst, who was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, the Raiders are well on their way of reaching a full slate of health among their defensive starters.

The Raiders vs, Falcons showdown kicks off at 10:00 a.m. PT with the Raiders currently a 3-point favorite, according to William Hill Sports.