The Falcons will host the undefeated Green Bay Packers for the third time in the past 316 days this weekend on Sunday Night football. The Falcons did beat the Packers in their first matchup last November thanks to a strong rushing attack, and some redzone miscues by the Packers. But they were thrashed in their playoff matchup last January, 48-21, with the Falcons defense forcing no punts in the game, and the game being practically over by halftime.
The Falcons are hoping to get some revenge this week, and need something to kick-start their sluggish start to the 2011 season. Their offense has been out of sync most games, and the defense has been hit and miss at times. A win over the Packers could galvanize this team to a very strong finish.
But a win won’t be easy. Many consider that the Packers are the league’s best team. Their offense has been unstoppable this year, ranking 1st in scoring offense and 5th in total offense this year. That is thanks in large part to the MVP-caliber season that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been having, sporting a passer rating of 125 through 4 games. The Falcons are going to have to find a way to slow down Rodgers if they want to have any chance to win this game.
Controlling the clock and limiting the Packers opportunities on offense might be the best method. Which requires the Falcons offense to be firing on all cylinders, something the team has yet to see for a full four quarters this year.
But anyway, here are some of the notable matchups I see this week.
Matchups I Like
Falcons WRs vs. Packers secondary
There aren’t a ton of matchups that favor the Falcons in this game. But in last year’s playoff game, the Packers put Charles Woodson in the slot often against Tony Gonzalez, effectively taking Gonzo out of the game. If they do the same thing this year, then the Falcons will get an opportunity to match up the emerging Julio Jones or Roddy White against the Packers third best corner: Sam Shields. Particularly Jones, with his size could be a tough out for a smaller corner like Shields, particularly after the catch.
Tom Van Riper of Forbes.com lists Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson as the second most overpaid player in the league, behind New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback Dunta Robinson, whose $5.5 million salary places him in the top ten at his position despite the fact that he’s never made All Pro and who is ranked by ESPN as the NFL’s 19th best corner.
I wonder if Van Riper factored in the $40,000 hit that Robinson’s salary took this week?
Is Robinson overpaid? Yes. The Falcons paid him to be a premiere No. 1 corner, and he is not, nor is he ever going to be. That ship sailed a long time ago. But Robinson does contribute to this team despite a less than stellar performance last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Part of the problem is that Robinson probably won’t ever reach his full potential in the Falcons defensive scheme. Robinson shined as a press man corner with the Houston Texans, but the Falcons seem to like to put him in a lot more zone and off coverage.
But even if the Falcons did play a lot more press man, that still wouldn’t change the fact that Robinson is making more money than he’s worth. But the truth is the Falcons weren’t paying Robinson based on his ability, they were paying him based on stability. While Robinson certainly isn’t a Top 10 No. 1 corner like he’s being paid like, he is one of the better No. 2 corners around the league. And with Brent Grimes on the other side, who definitely has performed like a Top 10 No. 1 corner at various points during the past year or so, it gives the Falcons a very good pair of starting corners.
Now if only the Falcons can stabilize their nickel cornerback situation, things will be looking very good for them in the secondary. Kelvin Hayden definitely gave them reason for optimism last week.
Robinson strikes Maclin
The NFL fined Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson $40,000 for his illegal hit on Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Sunday night, according to NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora. Robinson was flagged for a 15-yard penalty in the third quarter when he met Maclin over the middle, leading with his helmet and striking Maclin with his shoulder.
Robinson had a similar hit against Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson a year ago. That hit however knocked both players out of the game with concussions. Maclin on Sunday night was able to return to the game. Initially Robinson received a $50,000 on the league’s then infamous crackdown on such hits during the season, although that fine was eventually reduced to only $25,000.
Because Robinson is labeled a repeat offender, there was potential he could face a suspension.
Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) will not appear in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicates that the teams starters will get a reduced a role in that contest, but Robinson will not be among them. Chris Owens has started in Robinson’s stead the past two preseason contests as he’s been nursing that injured hamstring.
Also out will be Todd McClure (knee), Corey Peters (knee), and Lawrence Sidbury (ankle). Earlier today, it was announced that McClure would be out at least through the first game of the regular season. Peters was injured in the Falcons first preseason contest and has been ruled out indefinitely. Sidbury’s injury will make his ability to retain a roster spot difficult since it appears that rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews is emerging as the team’s potential fifth defensive end.
Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com cites an update from Falcons head coach Mike Smith that Dunta Robinson will likely sit out this Saturday’s third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Robinson sat out last Friday’s game with a hamstring injury he suffered the previous week. Robinson missed all of last summer’s preseason schedule with a similar hamstring issue. Although Adams notes that the severity of this summer’s hamstring injury does not match that of last year.
Missing the summer has become a minor habit for Robinson in recent years, nursing hamstring injuries the past two summers, and the summer of 2009 due to a contract holdout with the Houston Texans.
More looks at which Falcon players have raised or lowered their play in recent games.
Jonathan Babineaux – After a slow start this season, Babineaux’s play has picked up to his usual standards in recent weeks. He’s played well this season and has made his presence and impact known throughout the year but he has not played at the consistently high level he played for most of last season. Recent games have indicated he might be back.
Brent Grimes & Dunta Robinson – Both Grimes and Robinson had strong games against the Tampa Bay. Grimes is more notable because of his game-saving interception and an interception that was overturned. But Robinson also did his part and arguably had his best game in coverage since joining the Falcons. The Falcons pass defense has been one of their weaknesses throughout this season, but if Grimes and Robinson continue to play at a similarly high level it may wind up being a strength as the games start to get more dire come January.
Jamaal Anderson – After a relatively strong first half of the season, Anderson’s play has tailed off in recent weeks. He’s been practically invisible for much of the past month. Early in the season, he was making his presence known as a run stopper and an occasional pass rusher on his limited opportunities there, but in recent weeks his ability as a run stopper have been on the decline. And without it, there is not much else with Anderson.
Justin Peelle – While Peelle has may his presence known in the passing game since his return, his blocking seems to be much more iffy. The gap between the veteran Peelle and upstart Palmer seems to be have been closed. Before the argument would have been that Peelle is the more reliable blocker, but that reliability has not been apparent in recent games. And if it doesn’t return before the year is out, it may never do so because the Falcons might consider going with Palmer as the primary backup to be not so significant a roll of the dice as it may have appeared to be earlier in the season.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson has been cleared to practice today and is expected to play this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Robinson suffered a concussion in the team’s Week 6 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles and missed the team’s Week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Robinson said earlier today following today’s practice:
“I’m ready to rock. That bye week came right on time. I was here all week getting myself ready to play. I’m feeling good this week.”
In light of Monday’s report that Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson hasn’t been cleared to practice yet even after a week off during the team’s bye, I think the Falcons might have to make some adjustments at the cornerback position if he’s out another week.
I am a Chris Owens fan, and during the summer was high on his ability and potential to be a starter for this team this season. But against the Bengals he really struggled, and the truth is had one of the worst games of a Falcon corner in a long time. It made some of the usual weekly performances of Jason Webster, Chris Houston, and Allen Rossum look very good by contrast. And while I think this would be a good test for Owens this week to see how well he bounces back from such a performance which would be a great indicator of his future, at the same time it would at least have a backup plan in case he doesn’t bounce back.
So my suggestion is to perhaps move Brian Williams to the outside in nickel situations. Against the Bengals, Williams covered the slot and Owens the outside receiver in nickel situations, but I think that needs to be reversed. When Robinson was healthy, Owens played the slot in nickel situations. I think that is potentially a better matchup for us against the Bucs, with Owens going up against Sammie Stroughter in the slot, and Williams facing whoever is lined up outside for the Bucs (Arrelious Benn?).
Now this could all be moot if Robinson comes back to practice tomorrow and the next few days and is ready to go. But I think the Falcons should at least prepare this week for the possibility that if Owens gets off to a slow start versus the Bucs, it may be time to make a switcheroo at cornerback.
The Falcons Week 7 injury report released today indicated that cornerback Dunta Robinson is questionable for this weekend’s game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Robinson suffered a concussion on a hit he delivered to Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the second quarter last week. He missed the remainder of the game and sat out all three days of practice.
As previously noted, tight end Justin Peelle (sports hernia) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee) are out this week. Running back Antone Smith who suffered a shoulder injury last week is also listed as questionable after missing the entire week of practice. Linebacker Curtis Lofton who was limited in practice on Wednesday, fully participated on Thursday and was removed from the report for Friday, indicating he will play this weekend.
For the Bengals, they will be without running back Brian Leonard, defensive end Antwan Odom, and safety Roy Williams. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle), defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee), and defensive end Jonathan Fanene (hamstring) were labeled questionable. Fanene fully participated in all three days of practice this week. Joseph missed Wednesday and Thursday practice, but was limited on Friday. Sims missed Wednesday practice, was limited on Thursday and fully participated on Friday.
Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that Falcons tight end Justin Peelle will miss the next four to six weeks due to undergoing sports hernia surgery on Tuesday. Backup Michael Palmer will move up in the depth chart to take over for Peelle, who’s duties are mostly as a blocker, but he’s added value as a receiver. For the year, Peelle has 3 catches for 26 yards. Palmer has made catches in each of the past two games likely due to increased playing time from Peelle not being 100%.
Also on today’s injury report, running back Antone Smith was held out with a shoulder injury, suffered vs. the Eagles on special teams coverage. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed practice and has already been ruled out for this week’s matchup vs. the Cincinnati Bengals as he continues to recover from a knee injury he suffered in Week 5 vs. the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons have a bye next week, which should allow Weatherspoon an extra week to rest and recover. Stephen Nicholas is expected to continue starting in place of Weatherspoon.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson also sat out practice due to the concussion he suffered vs. the Eagles. He also received $50,000 fine from the league for his hit on Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson that caused a concussion in both players. Robinson is appealing his fine. Due to league rules on concussions, his status vs. the Bengals won’t be known until he is cleared by an independent doctor. If he misses the Bengals game, Chris Owens is expected to be the starter.