The Falcons (0-1) are set to face the Oakland Raiders (1-0) at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum.
Here are five things to know about the Falcons on Wednesday:
1. Falcons run game stuck in reverse. The tight ends play a key role in blocking in the outside zone rushing scheme the Falcons utilize. Tight end Levine Toilolo struggled mightily with his run blocking against Tampa Bay. His 32.7 run block grade on 11 run blocks was lower than any run block grade he received in 2015, according to profootballfocus.com. Jacob Tamme also struggled in run blocking; his 67.9 run blocking is also considered below average. The Falcons will need to run the ball better against the Raiders. They rushed for just 52 yards against Tampa Bay, which was their sixth straight game not rushing for over 100 yards and their lowest output since rushing for 17 yards against San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2015. The last time the Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards was against Minnesota (116 yards) on Nov. 29.
2. Bryant moving up. Kicker Matt Bryant made all three of his field goal attempts against Tampa Bay. Bryant now has 744 total points throughout his Falcons career, which is second on the all-time franchise list.
3. Gruden high on Raiders. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is high on the Raiders this season. “I think everything you see about the Raiders, this is the year for them to take a giant step forward,” Gruden said.
4. Practice. The Falcons return to practice at 1:45 p.m. today after having Tuesday off. They’ll leave for Oakland on Friday.
5A. 3 key matchups. Falcons LT Jake Matthews vs. Raiders DE Khalil Mack: Matthews will be in battle with Mack, who had 15 sacks last season on his way to All-Pro status. Matthews gave up a sack and was called for two penalties while battling with Tampa Bay’s Robert Ayers. Mack had seven tackles, but didn’t register a sack in the opener. Matthews is being counted on to protect Matt Ryan’s blind side, while Mack had developed into one of the league’s top pass rushers.
Falcons CB Robert Alford vs. Raiders WR Michael Crabtree: Alford had two pass breakups against Tampa Bay. Crabtree caught the game-winning two-point conversion against the Saints. Alford battled hard against Tampa Bay’s bigger receivers. He’ll have a more favorable matchup going against Crabtree, who had seven catches in the opener after hauling down a career-high 85 passes and nine touchdowns in 2015.
Falcons FS Ricardo Allen vs. Raiders QB Derek Carr: Allen led the defense with seven tackles last week. Carr is an emerging star in the NFL. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown last week and finished with a passer rating of 98.5 in the opener. Allen has become a steady free safety after starting his career as a cornerback. His range will be important to help cover Raider wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
5B. Practice squad shuffle. The Falcons waived running back Gus Johnson and signed running back Blake Sims to the practice squad on Tuesday. Sims, of Gainesville, played quarterback at Alabama. He worked out for the Falcons on Friday.
As the Falcons prepare for the Raiders, the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov look at the issues facing the team and the biggest concerns this week in Oakland.
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24