By Cedric Williams

When a team hasn’t played particularly well in its last few outings, sometimes the best remedy that team might find is a break in the schedule. The best of those breaks would be a bye week, which would provide the chance for said team (and its weary fans) to clear their minds and heal their bodies in the middle of what has proven to be another tough NFL season for the Atlanta Falcons.

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Unfortunately, the schedule-makers didn’t exactly line that in mind when they created the game slate for the Falcons this season. So Atlanta won’t get to enjoy its bye week off until next week.

Looking on the bright side, the Falcons just might get the next best thing this week, as the schedule calls for a visit to San Francisco and an NFC conference game against an opponent in the 49ers who just might be the team playing the worst football in the league right now. The Niners got pummeled in St. Louis on Sunday, and didn’t seem to put up much of a fight as they lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.

“Today was not good enough,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said in his post-game press conference on Sunday. “And that is me 100 percent… Obviously, I haven’t gotten to the right answer yet, but we’ll find the right answer.”

Somehow, that sounds like the kind of team an Atlanta team that has lost two of its last three (and very nearly all three of its last three) might want to play right now.

Season Record

San Francisco is 2-6 overall this season. The 49ers were very impressive in a 20-3 win in their season opener against the Minnesota Vikings – a game many Falcon fans might remember because it served as the second part of the opening night Monday Night Football doubleheader, which began with Atlanta winning a thriller over Philadelphia.

Since then though, the Niners have been just atrocious. They’ve lost in just about every way possible, including big losses to Pittsburgh and Arizona, bad losses to NFC West Division rivals Seattle and St. Louis, and even a disheartening last-second loss to the New York Giants a few weeks ago.

And now the Niners find themselves with the second-worst record in the NFC. Only Detroit’s 1-6 mark is worse.

San Francisco on Offense

One of the major problems for the 49ers this season is they statistically have the worst offense in the league.

San Francisco is ranked 32nd (out of 32 teams) in total yards per game (282.3) and in points scored per game (13.6). Already this season, the 49ers own three of the five league-wide performances where an offense gained less than 197 total yards in a game.

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Sunday’s performance, in which San Francisco only gained 189 total yards made it four times this season the Niners didn’t reach the 197-yard mark. And by scoring just six points against the Rams, San Francisco has now gained less than 200 yards and scored less than eight points in four of its eight games this season.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman – San Francisco’s top defensive player and the NFL leader in tackles this season – joked after Sunday’s game, “I wish I could just ask the coach to play running back, or something. But that’s not how this business works. We have to do our job that we signed up for. I’m sure the offensive side will get it together.”

San Francisco on Defense

Even with Bowman playing at a Pro Bowl level and leading the league with 82 total tackles (60 solo), the 49ers still rank 28th in total defense with 403.8 yards allowed per game. And most of that seems to come from the fact that the defense is just on the field too much.

In Sunday’s game in St. Louis for example, the San Francisco D seemed to have the Rams stymied for a quarter-and-a-half. But they were on the field nearly double the time that their offense was and eventually, St. Louis wore them down and scored 18 points in that one quarter to take over the game.

“We put the hours in,” Bowman said on Sunday. “It’s not like we’re sitting on our behinds. I don’t know. It sucks.”

San Francisco’s Players to Watch

Injuries have been a problem as well for the 49er offense. On Sunday, they played without either their top rusher (second-year man Carlos Hyde) or their top receiver (veteran Anquan Boldin). Some are also calling for the benching of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which makes just finding out who will take the field for San Francisco an issue to watch out for on Sunday.

Defensively, Bowman is San Francisco’s top player, but the Niners also have a burgeoning star is linebacker/pass rush specialist Aaron Lynch, a second-year player out of South Florida, who leads the Niners with 5.0 quarterback sacks this season.

Outlook

It always seems to be a tough adjustment for East Coast teams to travel all the way to the West Coast for important games in the NFL. But with the current streak the Falcons are on, and the lowly-type opponent they’ll be facing on Sunday, this seems like a key game for Atlanta to finally get well.

If not, the Falcons could find themselves fighting just to stay in the playoff hunt. Which would be quite a disappointment after the club’s 5-0 and 6-1 start to the season.

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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at cedricwilliams510@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.