5 questions with the enemy: Kevin Knight of The Falcool

In a rare clash of teams, Cincinnati hosts the Atlanta Falcons for the first time since 2014. The Bengals have been on the winning side more times than not in this rivalry, but this game offers different challenges.

We tapped into insights from SB Nation’s Atlanta Falcons site, the Alcoholic, for more insight. Kevin Knight there made us answer our questions.

1.) AC: Marcus Mariota appears to be having a fine career revival under Arthur Smith. Is the style of play and plan they use sustainable for long-term success and what has been their daily bread with him on offense?

KK: The Falcons’ style of play has been durable for six games, but no one knows if it can hold up for an entire season. In reality, this team should be 4-2 with a chance of being 5-1 if not for “official interference” at the end of the Bucs game in Week 5.

So it’s been a successful plan for Atlanta so far, and one that’s kept them in one-score games every week. Ultimately, the current plan is to limit Mariota’s passing attempts as much as possible, pound the rock with Allgeier and Huntley, and have Mariota rip off big runs whenever he gets favorable looks. .

Given Atlanta’s investment in the receiving corps (Kyle Pitts, Drake London), you have to think the plan is for the passing game to eventually become a bigger part of the offense. Maybe it’s about Mariota continuing to shed some rust and getting comfortable with those receivers, or maybe it’s just trying to build a successful offense until the ” QB of the future” is coming. Either way, the system works, and Arthur Smith deserves a lot of credit for turning this into a top-10 offense.

2.) AC: Cordarelle Patterson is on IR, but Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley both provided some nice sparks to complement what Mariota is doing. What is their plan of attack with the guards this week against the Bengals, in terms of potential play calls and workload sharing?

KK: The Falcons will run the ball as much as possible. It’s really up to the opponent to force him out. Even that didn’t always work, as the Falcons managed to close the gap to the Bucs in Week 5. Without Patterson, the running game doesn’t have quite the same dynamic element, but they did. managed to replace some of that by running Mariota more frequently and shuffling Specialist Avery Williams back in.

Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley are both hammers who are very good at avoiding negative runs and tacking after contact. This is a physical and punishing racing game with these two taking over 15 races.

Given Cincinnati’s strong pass defense and weak run defense, I’d expect the Falcons to try and make 40+ runs in this one, just like they did. did against San Francisco. Obviously, the Bengals can make this much more difficult by getting points on the board themselves.

3.) CA: The Falcons employ arguably the largest wide receiver corps in the league, top to bottom. They are third in the league in yards per reception as a team. Are they mostly on deep routes or shorter routes and their use of group size to maximize yards after catch?

KK: It’s a mix of both so far. The two essential elements of Arthur Smith’s offense are establishing a dominant running game and hitting deep offside-action shots. So far the running game has gone well, but not the deep shots. So far, the only consistent threat on the field has been Olamide Zaccheaus, who is actually the shortest of the receivers, and he’s mostly made his mark on the middle routes with a few yards added after the catch.

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Clearly, Kyle Pitts is extremely dangerous as a threat on the pitch, but he hasn’t gotten enough accurate targets so far. Rookie Drake London has been the main target and the driving force behind the chain, and he’s also dangerous after capture. Atlanta’s passing game is very weak, but it’s been effective thanks to the receivers’ post-catch ability. If they can finally start hitting those deep shots, watch out.

4.) CA: The Falcons are in the top ten in the league in rushing yards allowed, but are bottom in passing yards allowed on defense. What type of passing attacks have been their Achilles heel?

In the first five games of the season, the Falcons really struggled to cover the zone. Then, against the Bucs, they couldn’t stop Tom Brady’s dink-and-dunk offense that moved upfield with more than 10 passes to Leonard Fournette out of the backfield. Against the 49ers, Atlanta gave up two quick TD drives in the same way, but then tightened up in the second half. It’s a very hot and cold defense that, as you mentioned, tends to allow for a lot of yardage.

What they didn’t do was give up a ton of points — Atlanta is 19th in scoring defense — and they accomplished that by playing stingy red-zone defense and creating takeaways. Cincinnati is one of the best passing offenses Atlanta will face all season, and I’m interested to see how they respond to the challenge.

Atlanta struggles to get pressure with the blitz, and they’ve tended to struggle in the zone. Not a good setup against the Bengals, on paper at least.

5.) CA: Currently, the Bengals are 6.5-point favorites this week, according to DraftKings. What is your opinion on this line and how do you predict this one?

KK: As has been the case all season, the Falcons are going to keep this one close and keep both fans sweating until the clock strikes 00. Their opportunistic offensive and defensive style of play sets up these finishes on a score.

I think the Bengals are clearly the more talented team, but Atlanta’s offensive game plan fits well with Cincinnati’s weakness on defense. I’m still going to predict a Bengals win because I don’t know if Atlanta can really slow down Burrow and the passing game, but it’ll be closer than the gap. Bengals 27-24.

Our thanks to The Falcoolique and Kevin Knight for the chat! Check out their site for our end of conversation!

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