Ahead of our second instalment of NFL at Wembley this season, the Atlanta Falcons will have to toughen up for a huge test in London if they hope to make something of their season.
We’ve talked in the past about how, due to such a short season, every game in the NFL is a “must-win game” but when you’re approaching the half way stage of the season with a record of 2-5, that need to get a win cranks up inexorably.
And when you consider that there is still no clear cut leader in the Falcons division, if they step their game up they should be able to reap the rewards. The Carolina Panthers currently top the division with a record of 3-3-1 (that’s as bad as many teams bottom of other divisions) while the New Orleans Saints are still struggling with consistency and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still... well they’re the Bucs.
The NFC South is just crying out for someone to take a hold of it and make the play-offs. And that could be the Falcons if they toughen up for Sunday’s game.
A lot of team have traditional styles of play in the NFL – the New York Jets are famous for their running game known as “ground and pound,” the Bears are notorious for being very physical while teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos have earned reputations for throwing the ball – mainly because of Peyton.
But unfortunately for the Falcons their reputation is not a good one. They have earned an almost universally held reputation in the NFL for being a team that’s pretty easy to bully and bash around – and it’s not just a media creation either! In 2013 they were the NFL’s worst ranked rushing team and second-worst rushing defence. It’s an area that has already seen their team blown out twice this season and is a must fix before heading out to a potential new set of fans in London.
But that is going to be hard to rectify on the pitch when you’re heading into a battle with the NFL’s current number one ranked defence in the Detroit Lions. And wide receiver Julio Jones is aware of the huge task his team faces.
“Those guys up front are a handful. We just have to get the ball out of Matt’s hands early and try and slow them down and overwhelm them in numbers,” Jones told the media.
But it won’t be the end of the world should they suffer defeat in London and fail to make the play-offs – there will just be huge disappointment at an opportunity missed and sometimes disappointment in missed opportunities can be just as soul destroying as anger at a total disaster of a season.