Riddick: Falcons are ‘team to look out for’ in the NFC

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals to tie the game 7-7 during the first quarter Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

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Falcons running back Devonta Freeman spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals to tie the game 7-7 during the first quarter Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, a former personnel executive and NFL player with the Falcons, Browns an Eagles, believes the Falcons are a team to watch in the NFC.

The Falcons (7-4) are in control of the NFC South with five games to play. The Buccaneers are a game back at 6-5.

After chatting about Seattle on Sports Center with Scott Van Pelt last night, Riddick discussed the Falcons and what they need to improve on during the playoff race.

“The team for me is Atlanta,” Riddick said. “That’s the team to watch out for because just like the Cowboys and just like the Oakland Raiders, the offense is driving the bus here. We don’t know if that’s something that will travel all the way through the playoffs with these teams. But it seems to be kind of the formula this year: that young hot offenses can make up for some of the deficiencies on defense.”

Riddick would like to see the Falcons slow down a bit on offense in order to run more clock and limit the defense’s exposure. The Falcons average 29 minutes, 36 seconds of time of possession per game, which ranks 21st in the league. Dallas keeps the ball 32:50 per game which is tops in the league.

“The only thing with Atlanta, I’ll say is this, whereas Dallas controls the time of possession and keeps their defense off the field, Atlanta is not like that,” Riddick said. “Atlanta is a lot more quick-strike. We’re going to put a bunch of points up on you and their defense still has to get back out there on the field. They may have to change a little bit of that going forward.”

Riddick believes the Falcons defense was built to play from ahead with a lead, much like the old Indianapolis Colts defenses under coach Tony Dungy and general manager Bill Polian.

“They can rush the passer,” Riddick said. “They are getting better at it. I know the stats don’t say it, but Vic Beasley is coming on. Dwight Freeney is the best thing to happen to Vic Beasley. They have some issues in the secondary with Desmond Trufant being hurt, but that’s a team to look out for if they can get the right formula and play the right way.”