Falcons Week 15: 49ers Preview

Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) scores a rushing touchdown in the third quarter of their game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016, Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons offensive coordinator. Tevin Coleman was blossoming into a star. And the Falcons also made it to Super Bowl 51. Now, the 49ers have Shanahan calling the shots. Coleman is leading the 49ers running back committee. And the 49ers are the team with Super Bowl aspirations. It is quite ironic that the 49ers are facing the Falcons this Week 15 in a very key match-up that could determine the seeding of the NFC playoffs.

Before we get into how the Falcons are looking going into this week, let’s quickly breakdown those playoff implications.

If the 49ers win, or the Saints lose, they maintain sole possession of the first seed. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, New Orleans will gain the first seed. A 49ers loss would also set up a Week 17 showdown for the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks. So for Atlanta, they have the opportunity to play spoiler no matter what happens this weekend.

Who’s Gonna Guard Ju?


Star CB Richard Sherman is not playing this Sunday. Not that Sherman has ever been very effective against Julio, but his presence at least brought comfort to the 49ers defense. However, the 49ers lack a true number one corner to play against Julio. Which, if history tells us anything, is a HUGE problem. What instantly comes to memory is the Falcons vs. Panthers game where rookie James Bradberry matched up against Jones. That game led to a historic 300-yard performance for Julio and 500 yards for Matt Ryan.

Aside from that, defensive end Dee Ford is also out. He has been causing many problems for offensive linemen all year, and knowing he is not playing is great for Atlanta. The Falcons only allowed one sack last week in Chris Lindstrom’s return. The 49ers pass rush has been dominant all year, but Ford’s absence and Lindstrom anchoring the right side might give Matt Ryan a chance to take over this game.

The Falcons are without WR Calvin Ridley in Week 15. Expect Russell Gage to get much more work this weekend.

Shut Down Shanahan

Atlanta Falcons defense dominates Arizona Cardinals

Former Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan has created a dominant offense in San Francisco. This is the week to humble Mr. Shanahan with a defense that has really come alive in the second half of the season. It has been interceptions galore as the Falcons defense has gotten eight picks since week 11. Plus, quite a lot of sacks since week 10. Starting center Weston Richburg is out for the rest of the season for the 49ers. That means massive DT Grady Jarrett could be getting to Garappolo all day. The 49ers offensive line isn’t amazing but isn’t terrible either. But with the way the Falcons are playing, that might not be enough to stop them.

Jimmy G isn’t immune to interceptions either, and since the Falcons have been ball hawks recently, he could be in for a VERY rough game on Sunday.

CB Desmond Trufant is out for the season. So Isiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield and Blidi Wreh-Wilson will be manning the secondary.

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