There was palpable excitement among Jets fans this week as the team officially opened the 21-day practice window for Aaron Rodgers. The future Hall of Fame quarterback returned to football activity this week, and while he has yet to be cleared for contact, he has begun throwing to teammates.

Laken Tomlinson alluded to the motivating element of having Rodgers back in the building. The hope is that seeing him out on the practice field will help the players focus on Atlanta’s arrival on Sunday.

The NFL can be unfair at times. Atlanta enter the weekend atop the NFC South with a 5-6 record; the Jets are currently ranked as the 15th best team in the AFC with a 4-7 record. If the Jets hope to see Aaron Rodgers take the field again this year, they’ll need to go on a winning streak. Rodgers confirmed on the Pat McAfee Show this week that the Jets playoff chances will go into his decision making process on whether to return this year.

So how can the Jets ground the Atlanta Falcons this coming Sunday?

It all starts up front. To win games, you need to score points, and to score points you usually need your offensive line to perform at their best. As I outlined earlier this week, the Jets could welcome back former first-round pick Mekhi Becton and guard Wes Schweitzer, but the return of Duane Brown remains uncertain.

Only four teams have fewer sacks than Atlanta’s 22, but they generate pressure at a high clip. The Falcons put pressure on the QB on 23.9% of snaps which is just outside the top-10 at number 11. Atlanta isn’t a blitz-heavy team, bringing extra pressure just 25.9% of the time but if the Jets want to develop some longer routes, they’ll need to afford their QB and receivers a little extra time.

Moving the ball on Atlanta through the air is difficult; they have allowed the 9th fewest passing yards in the league. The Jets have struggled to get the ball in the endzone all season, and it won’t get any easier on Sunday. Atlanta has the third best red zone defense in football, allowing a touchdown on just 38.24% of entries; over the last three games that number drops further to 33.33%.

Atlanta also have one of the best third-down defences in football, allowing just 35.21% to be converted, which is the 6th best mark in football.

Whilst the Falcons run defence has been strong, especially in the red zone, Atlanta has allowed over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to running backs on receptions. If the Jets were looking to get Breece Hall and Israel Abanikanda involved in the passing game, this would be an ideal week to do it.

On the defensive side of the football, there may be opportunities to exploit.

In many ways the Falcons are a mirror image of the Jets: for as good as their defence has been, the offence must improve.

Desmond Ridder has been praised by teammates for his resiliency, but he’ll be disappointed to be heading into this week with more interceptions than touchdowns.

The Falcons are averaging 19.4 points per game, and have coughed up the ball 18 times this season, suggesting opportunities for the Jets to win extra possessions through turnovers. But Atlanta has been able to move the ball, especially on the ground.

They have the 4th best rushing offence, with 139.3 yards per game on the ground, whereas the Jets have struggled to stop the run, ranking 31st in the league and allowing on average 140.3 rushing yards per game. Slowing down the Falcons’ running backs will be a crucial task for the Jets defence.

Former University of Texas star Bijan Robinson is a big reason for the Falcons success. The eighth overall pick in the draft is averaging 5 yards per carry and has 703 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, as well as 32 catches for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. The scary thing is that you know there is more to come from Robinson, and when he takes a breather you have to contend with Tyler Allgeier or Cordarrelle Patterson.

The other positive for Atlanta is that they’ve been able to start the same offensive line all season. Jake Matthews (LT), Matthew Bergeron (LG), Drew Dalman (C), Chris Lindstrom (RG), and Kaleb McGary (RT) have all played over 700 snaps this season; something the Jets can only dream about considering they’ve had over 15 players play at least one snap on the offensive line.

Sunday’s game could pose challenges on both sides of the ball, but the Jets will need to perform if they hope to stay in the mix for the playoffs.