This Sunday’s Atlanta Falcons vs. Jacksonville Jaguars matchup is a tough one to make a prediction for with both franchises struggling for consistency in recent weeks. Let’s take a look at the top storylines for Falcons at Jaguars, examine the current NFL odds, and make a prediction for this game.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Jacksonville Jaguars predictions | Storylines to watch in Week 12
While this game may not have playoff implications at the end of the season, that doesn’t mean it’s not vital for both franchises. Both the Falcons and Jaguars are in their first year with rookie head coaches. Additionally, while the Jaguars have their face of the franchise in place, questions remain over the future of Matt Ryan as the QB in Atlanta.
This game is especially crucial for both Urban Meyer and Arthur Smith. Both have received criticism for decisions and team performances at times, so getting a victory over a fellow rookie head coach would send a strong message. The Falcons still have an opportunity at the playoffs if they win, so for Smith, this game carries extra weight. Let’s take a look at the other storylines in this Week 12 matchup.
Can the Falcons bounce back after a national humiliation?
Making a prediction for any Falcons game is tough, and that is no different this week against the Jaguars. While Thursday of Week 11 seems like a long time ago, the Falcons have relived the 25-0 destruction at the hands of the Patriots over and over. Now they head into Week 12 against a team that is considered “weaker” than themselves and they need to make a statement. Questions could really be asked about Smith if his team comes out flat this week.
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For the Falcons’ players, whether they make the playoffs or not, this year is important to them. Across both sides of the ball, 22 players on the roster are set to be free agents this offseason. Not all of them will get a chance to make an impact on the field. For those that do, grabbing that chance versus letting it pass could make a huge difference when the offseason rolls around.
Matt Ryan has all the pressure on him in the next few weeks
In the 2021 offseason, the Atlanta Falcons decided to stick with — and even double down on — Ryan to some extent. They chose to draft Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall when they were in prime position to get one of Mac Jones or Justin Fields if they so desired. They also restructured Ryan’s contract, making it tough for them to move on from him ahead of the 2022 season.
The problem is that Ryan’s performance on the field in 2021 has not given the Falcons an answer to whether they made the right call or not. Looking at Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric, which grades players based on factors within their control, we can see the variation.
In the first three weeks, Ryan struggled. He was the least valuable QB in the league according to OVM in Week 1, before being in the bottom 10 in each of the next two weeks. After that, he turned it around. His five-game run between Weeks 4-9 was one of the most successful five-game stretches in terms of OVM since 2016. Unfortunately, he has then struggled again in Weeks 10 and 11.
With Ryan having just $15.6 million in dead money if the Falcons were to release him after the 2022 season, the next few weeks are crucial. If Ryan can prove he can still provide value to this offense, then the Falcons may decide to invest their higher draft capital on other positions in the upcoming draft. However, if Ryan struggles, the Falcons may have no choice but to plan for the future by spending an early pick on a QB.
The Jaguars offense has a big few weeks ahead of them
For Jaguars fans, picks and predictions for this Falcons game, or any game, in fact, should be a secondary element. Winning is wonderful, and it helps build confidence in a roster, but right now the process in Jacksonville is crucial if they are to build into a winning franchise with Trevor Lawrence and Meyer. A lot of attention will focus on those two, but it is the rest of the offense where questions really lie.
The Jaguars need to figure out several elements of their offense in the coming weeks. They have six offensive linemen — including three starters — set to be free agents this offseason. Should they retain a core of them, or let them walk and hope they can build from the depth already on their roster or through the draft?
That is a tough debate because putting an inexperienced line in front of Lawrence is risky, but paying two or three offensive linemen at the same time will take up a big chunk of the cap. If I had to guess now, Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann would be the favorites to stay, with Cam Robinson likely walking.
There are also a lot of questions at wide receiver. DJ Chark Jr. is a free agent and will have to recover from a reasonably serious injury. They have Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, but neither of them has really been a clear WR1 type of player. They need to see what they have in them as a pair in order to work out how they should invest in the position going forward.
Falcons at Jaguars betting line and prediction
This line is extremely interesting with the Falcons as 2-point favorites on the road. When you look at the talent on these two rosters, the Jaguars might actually have the more talented group. Add in home-field advantage, and it’s hard to make a case for taking the Falcons in this one. Additionally, the Jaguars have demonstrated that on their day, they can be a tough team to beat.
The problem is working out which version of the Jaguars will turn up. In their last five games, they have played the Dolphins, Bills, and Colts tough while rolling over against the Seahawks and 49ers. If the same team that played the Bills and Colts close turns up Sunday, they have a great chance to beat the Falcons.
The Falcons have been absolutely demolished in the past two weeks, losing by a combined score of 68-3. They stumbled past a New Orleans Saints team starting Trevor Siemian and lost to a Sam Darnold-led Panthers team. If they get upset in Jacksonville by the Jaguars, it would not really be a surprise.
Falcons vs. Jaguars prediction: Jaguars 24, Falcons 22