On Sunday the Falcons play in what might be their most important game of the season against the 49ers. Currently there is a log jam at the bottom of the playoff race with five teams holding a 6-7 record, including the Falcons, and the 49ers just one game ahead at 7-6. With tie breakers a win in San Francisco should vault the Falcons into a playoff position with just three weeks to go in the season.
The Falcons will have their work cut out for them on both sides of the ball against the 49ers. On the offensive side of the ball there are some notable parallels between these two sides. Both teams feature a near identical one-two punch on the offensive side of the ball. For the 49ers it's George Kittle, who is neck and neck with Travis Kelce for the most receiving yards per game as a tight end, and Deebo Samuel their Swiss army knife wide receiver who is one of three players in the league with five rushing and five receiving touchdowns. For the Falcons it's Kyle Pitts, the third most receiving yards as a tight end in the league, and our own Swiss army knife Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the only other players with five rushing and five receiving touchdowns.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers during Week 14.
Defensively these teams shake out a little differently. The Falcons anchored by AJ Terrell leading their secondary as one of, if not the, best defensive backs in the NFL. The 49ers have Nick Bosa up front as one of the best defensive ends in the league with 14 sacks on the year and counting. The Falcons offensive line will have to stand their ground against this 49ers front seven core.
The good news for the Falcons is that the offensive line is coming off of a brilliant performance in Carolina not giving up a single sack to the Panthers who ranked fourth in the league coming into that game. It was also the third straight 100-yard rushing game showing that things are coming together at the right time on that front. All that is to say we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking this will be an easy win. Objectively speaking it won't be. However, we have the pieces in place to make this a competitive game and are seriously speaking about playoffs in mid-December.
With all that to unpack let's take a look at who the experts have picked to win on Sunday.*Picks made as of Dec. 16
|Author | Outlet||Pick||2021 Record|
|Jarrett Bell | USA Today||49ers||10-3|
|Matt Bowen | ESPN||49ers||7-6|
|Gregg Rosenthal | NFL.com||49ers||8-5|
|Gary Davenport | Bleacher Report||49ers||7-6|
|Brad Gagnon | Bleacher Report||Falcons||10-3|
|Vinnie Iyer | Sporting News||49ers||9-4|
|Rob Ninkovich | ESPN||49ers||8-5|
|Jason La Confora | CBS Sports||49ers||9-4|
|Pete Prisco | CBS Sports||49ers||7-6|
|Lorenzo Reyes | USA Today||49ers||9-4|