Atlanta Falcons look to end slide versus Jaguars


The Atlanta Falcons enter Week 15’s road game with the Jacksonville Jaguars as 2.5 point road underdog? Can the Atlanta Falcons end their six-game slide Sunday?

The Atlanta Falcons have the longest losing streak in the NFL at six games. They have not won a game since Week 7’s road date in Nashville versus the Tennessee Titans, 10-7. Atlanta has almost cost themselves all hope at making the NFC Playoffs, but holds on by a thread entering Week 15 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM ET at EverBank Field and the game will air on Fox.

Like the Atlanta Falcons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a sub-.500 record and are fighting for their playoff lives. While Atlanta has to make the NFC Wild Card, Jacksonville is only a game back of the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts in the bad AFC South at 5-8. It is very likely that two divisions in the NFL will send a sub-.500 team to the playoffs in the AFC South and in the NFC East.

-= Related: Atlanta Falcons place Stone on IR, promote Starr to 53-man roster =-

Over the last few weeks, the Atlanta Falcons have made moves to their roster that involve placing players on the Injured Reserve list including kicker Matt Bryant, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (now with the New England Patriots), strong safety William Moore, and now center James Stone.

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In the final weeks that likely won’t involve playoff contention, it is more important than ever for head coach Dan Quinn to see what he has in the depth of his 2015 Atlanta Falcons roster before the 2016 NFL Draft and Free Agency Period.

Players like wide receiver Justin Hardy, linebacker Nate Stupar, and linebacker Tyler Starr will have opportunities to the play in important snaps for the Atlanta Falcons. Guys like running back Devonta Freeman, wide receiver Julio Jones, fullback Patrick DiMarco, and punter Matt Bosher have Pro Bowls to play for.

For Atlanta to win on Sunday, the Falcons will have to do three things well:

1. Force Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to make poor decisions with the football. He’s grown immensely in year two with the Jaguars, but still makes at least one dumb play a game (does that sound familiar?). Hopefully Atlanta can capitalize on an errant pass from Bortles.

2. Stay alert in the secondary. Atlanta was hopelessly torched by a lackluster receiving corps in Carolina last week. Jacksonville has one of the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns can stretch the field like nobody’s business and tight end Julius Thomas has been a monster in recent weeks since coming back from a preseason finger injury.

3. Score touchdowns, not field goals in the red zone. Atlanta has lost many of its games during this six-game slide by not getting the six points from a touchdown often enough. Maybe the Atlanta Falcons feel like scoring this week after last week’s embarrassing shutout to NFC South rival Carolina Panthers.

With both teams fighting for their playoff lives in Week 15, I see this game coming down to the final possession. Both the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars will have explosive plays as well as costly, careless mistakes on offense. It will ultimately come down to who wants it more.

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Jacksonville has come to life since beating the Buffalo Bills in London several weeks ago and has a great opportunity to win its division for the first time since 2002’s realignment. Since Jacksonville put up 51 points last week to the Atlanta Falcons’ zero, I may have to roll with Jacksonville in this close game.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Atlanta Falcons 23