Another Matchup in the South

The Niners hit the road for the second consecutive week for what is shaping up to be a slugfest with the Falcons on Sunday morning. The oddsmakers have San Francisco as 5 point favorite.

The Niners are completing their two-week tour of the NFC South, and while Atlanta has been playing better than the dumpster fire that was Carolina last week, the Falcons are still not scaring anybody. 

For the second straight week, the elite Niner defense will face a below-average quarterback. The erratic and inaccurate Marcus Mariota leads a run-heavy attack that will be without its primary weapon, as leading rusher Cordarelle Patterson hit the IR this week. This offense is so committed to the ground game that they ran the ball on 14 consecutive plays in the second half of their victory over Cleveland in week 4 (the ground streak followed a particularly ugly Mariota interception). 

The Falcons have spent a lot of draft capital on downfield threats in the past two years, taking talented speedsters TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London in the top ten overall. But so far in 2022, they remain a methodical ground-and-pound offense. Despite being a bit dinged up the Niner’s defense can load up on the line of scrimmage, and if Nick Bosa can overcome a lingering groin injury and suit up on Sunday, it’s hard to see the Falcons putting up a lot of points

On the other side of the ball, Jimmy Garrapolo has an opportunity to put up some big numbers. The Falcons have allowed 300+ passing yards in each of the past three games. Tom Brady put up 351 yards against this defense last week, most of which came on short passes underneath.If Jimmy G does what he does best, keeping it simple with short-designed passes to his playmakers, the San Francisco offense should keep the chains moving. 

This sets up as a feature game for Deebo Samuel. After delivering a relatively quiet performance in Carolina (2 catches, 20 yards, 1 TD), expect the Niners’ best offensive weapon to have a big game. George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk are also primed for strong performances.

Special teams were a weak spot for the Niners last week, with kicker Robbie Gould getting a field goal blocked and suffering a bruised knee making two touchdown-saving tackles on long kickoff returns. Gould was back on practice on Thursday, so the Niners won’t have to resort to asking punter Mitch Wishnowsky to attempt a field goal again. 

West coast teams are often at a disadvantage playing early kickoffs in the eastern time zone, but the Niners stayed in West Virginia this week, so their body clocks should be properly acclimated. I expect the Red and Gold to limit Atlanta to under 20 points, and ultimately cover the spread with a 24-17 victory.