The Atlanta Falcons have a case of "the Mondays."
Monday Night Football has not been especially kind to the New York Jets, but no team in the league has fared worse on Monday than Atlanta. In 34 games on the big stage, the Falcons are 10-24 and their .294 winning percentage on Monday is the worst in the NFL. Can they right the ship against the Jets this week or are the 1-3 Falcons doomed to another loss this season?
Two teams that would have liked to fare better in the first quarter of the season, which team escapes Week 5 with a win in front of a national audience?
Meet the Falcons
Perhaps only a play away from making the Super Bowl last year, the Falcons look nothing like the team that was the number one seed in the NFC a year ago. With losses already to the Saints, Dolphins, and Patriots, Atlanta has already matched their number of losses from all of last season. Their only victory has been a 31-24 win over the now-hapless St. Louis Rams.
Though Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are having excellent statistical seasons, the Falcons still struggle to run the ball and will be without Steven Jackson for a third straight game. But that's barely even half of the problem.
Atlanta is 22nd in points allowed this year and hasn't given up fewer than 23 in any of their four games. The Falcons parted ways with the likes of John Abraham and Dunta Robinson in the offseason and have managed just seven sacks in four games. Can they put up a better performance against New York?
Meet the Jets
It'll be a truly-telling night of football if the Falcons can't stop the New York offense.
The Jets are 28th in scoring this season and 31st in turnovers, giving the ball away 12 times already this year including eight interceptions by rookie Geno Smith. Though he has flashed moments of excellence in wins over the Buccaneers and Bills, Smith clearly still has a long ways to go. He may have to go even further if receivers Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes sit out with injuries on Monday night, as it appears that they will.
But much like Mark Sanchez in recent seasons, Smith has been able to rely on his defense for most of the year.
Though they are coming off of a 38-13 loss to the Titans, the Jets are second in total defense and third in yards per carry allowed. Rex Ryan has still managed to piece together a solid defensive unit, but will they be able to contain the high-powered weapons of the Falcons in Atlanta?
Local Takes: Atlanta Falcons
Dave Choate at The Falcoholic breaks down the incredible paces that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are on so far this season:
Right now, Ryan is on pace for 5,320 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The yardage would be a career high by about 800 yards, but it's attainable given the way the Falcons have been flinging the ball this year. He's also completing 66.5% of his passes.
Jones is on pace for 132 receptions, 1,924 yards, and eight touchdowns, which would seem like preposterous numbers if he wasn't Julio Jones. As it is, they merely seem a little absurd.
Local Takes: New York Jets
Unfortunately, John B at Gang Green Nation also breaks down the pace of Geno Smith after four games:
312/544; 4,360 yards; 16 TD; 32 INT
64 rushes; 340 yards; 4 TD; 12 fumbles
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Even though Atlanta is clearly the better of the two teams right now and are playing at home, it would be silly to ignore their 1-3 record and leaky pass defense. Ryan may be having a great season, but opposing quarterbacks against the Falcons defense in total might be having a better one. If Smith can find a way to control the football and not just give it away, the Jets are going to be right in this thing.
Additionally, New York's defense may be strong enough to contain what has become a very one-dimensional offense without Jackson and an ailing Roddy White. The Patriots put a couple of bodies on Tony Gonzalez late in the game and forced Julio Jones to make a play on them. He was able to do that once or twice, but ultimately time ran out on Atlanta.
However, the Jets are not the Patriots. And Geno may give the ball away anyway, as we've seen him to from time-to-time this year. I think they'll keep it close, but not close enough.
Falcons 27, Jets 20
Atlanta is 10.5-point favorites over New York, according to OddsShark.com. The Falcons are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games. The over/under is 43.5.
The Falcons have a Bye week and return in Week 7 to face the Buccaneers in the Georgia Dome.
The Jets take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1:00 PM EST at MetLife Stadium.