Atlanta Falcons: 5 Players to Watch at Niners

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The 6-2 Atlanta Falcons travel to the Bay Area to face the 2-6 San Francisco 49ers in Levi’s Stadium Sunday afternoon. Kickoff begins at 4:05 PM ET.

So the San Francisco 49ers decided to make a quarterback change and the world went a little crazy. That’s right, the Niners have opted to bench starter Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert when they host the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons.

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Reports have circulated that the reason San Francisco decided to make the quarterback switch was because they were going to go against the “weak” Atlanta Falcons defense in Week 9. I’ll admit it, the pass rush of the Atlanta Falcons is still dismal, but this isn’t a weak defense by any stretch of the imagination. That was last year’s squad.

Atlanta is the 11th best defense in yards allowed, 13th in points allowed, and 3rd in rushing yards allowed. Those are all decent marks, so it’s safe to say that in Year One of the Dan Quinn Era that this defense is already middle of the pack in the NFL. Keep in mind that the pass rush will improve in time (30th in sacks), just maybe not in 2015.

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This game on Sunday has the makings of what might actually be a sloppy game. Both sides are tremendously banged up. Atlanta won’t have SS William Moore, WR Leonard Hankerson, OLB Justin Durant, or CB Robert Alford. Physically, the Atlanta Falcons need a bye about now. Fortunately it’s coming next week in Week 10.

The 49ers won’t have RB Carlos Hyde, RB Mike Davis, and S L.J. McCray. They traded away TE Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos and veteran WR Anquan Boldin remains doubtful for tomorrow’s game.

However, all eyes are on Blaine Gabbert as he makes his first start with San Francisco after busting in Jacksonville as the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The 49ers seem to like Gabbert’s progression as a passer. Perhaps that’s a nice way of saying that Colin Kaepernick is on an island with HC Jim Tomsula in the first part of November. That Rams game…

Without further ado, here are the five players on the Atlanta Falcons I believe will step up and have a big game against the San Francisco 49ers. Hopefully the Dirty Birds can leave Levi’s Stadium at 7-2 entering their bye week.

Next: Will This Rookie Step Up on Sunday?