Written by: Joe Carlino @joecarlino14
By Week Three of most NFL seasons, teams and their fan bases have a decent understanding of how their season will transpire moving forward. This year, the 100th incarnation of our great sport, is no different, and there are actually some incredibly intriguing matchups. From the 2-0 Los Angeles Rams taking on the Cleveland Browns in their first Sunday Night Football home game since 2008 to the Baltimore Ravens going to Kansas City for the second straight year to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, we’ve got some firepower for sure.
However, there is one game I’m looking at which has some historical implications, and not in the good way: the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons, fresh off their home opener victory for the 11th time in Matt Ryan’s career, travel to Indianapolis to face the 1-1 Colts, who barely squeaked by the Tennessee Titans in a (literal) firestorm of a game.
Why am I looking towards this game historically? Because Atlanta is bad against the Colts. Like Stephen A. Smith defining Aaron Rodgers “baddddddd”. The organization has existed since 1966, and have faced the Colts 16 times in that span. Normally, a matchup with that longevity would have a close margin between the teams, right?
Wrong. In fact, the Colts essentially own the Falcons in this series, having won 14 of their 16 matchups against the “Dirty Birds”.
That said, the concept of this article is to take a look at the two games Atlanta did win against Indianapolis to see if there’s a possibility that they can pull off the upset (currently a +1.5 underdog) and improve to 2-1.
First Win: Indianapolis @ Atlanta (Falcons win 28-21 on December 6, 1998)
The first win Atlanta ever obtained over the Colts transpired in 1998, also known to Colts fans as Peyton Manning’s rookie season. In that campaign, Atlanta was trouncing their competition en route to a 14-2 record and a berth to the Super Bowl. But first, they had to get through Indy late in the year. Of course, while Peyton did struggle in 1998, he came out strong in this game, even taking an early 14-0 lead on the back of two touchdown passes. Then Atlanta came alive, with former quarterback Chris Chandler accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and former running back/ “Dirty Bird” originator Jamal Anderson scoring the other. In total, this was one statement win for the Falcons, not just because they beat Indy for the first time ever, but because they were still rolling until that final Sunday in January in Miami (a possible foreshadow for this season?)
Second Win: Atlanta @ Indianapolis (Falcons win 31-7 on November 6, 2011)
Honestly, this game can be considered a throwaway game on both sides, especially in the eyes of Colts fans. This year, the last year of Peyton Manning (who wasn’t even playing due to neck surgery) saw Atlanta come in and decimate the Colts, who hadn’t even won a game up to that point. Rookie receiver Julio Jones had one of the greatest first touchdown catches in NFL history, snagging a 50-yard pass in triple coverage (which was initially ruled incomplete), and even had an 80-yard touchdown, essentially saying “I’ve arrived” to opposing NFL secondaries. Of course, like the first sentence states, this game to Colts fans was another throwaway in an otherwise lost season. Their two quarterbacks in that game? Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky (you know, the Orlovsky who ran out of bounds in the Lions’ 0-16 2008 campaign). Heck, their only score was a six-yard pick-six by Jerraud Powers.
Looking at these two games, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta has much of a chance, and when I make picks, I like to analyze the historical trends before finalizing my selection. Therefore, Atlanta being 2-14 against the Colts is one full season worth of losing to another squad and doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that they can walk into Lucas Oil Stadium again and return home with the victory.
But, there is hope for Atlanta this time around, and it’s because of the following points:
The Colts lost Andrew Luck to retirement (in all fairness, Jacoby Brissett is a good quarterback)
The Colts might not have Darius Leonard (concussion) or Marlon Mack in this contest
Indianapolis’s offense is worst in the NFL in passing (32nd)
Atlanta has the third-best overall defense in the NFL and the best passing defense (no joke, though in their defense, the Vikings only threw 10 passes)
Atlanta’s offense is still high-powered across the board
Of course, this is the NFL, people. That means anything can happen on any given Sunday, so Atlanta could realistically get their third win ever over the Colts. However, they must bring their A-game moving forward, especially considering their next two matchups following are against other AFC South teams (Tennessee and Houston). Sunday at 1:00, it’s on.