By Matthew Asher
The Falcons should consider joining the AFC West. So far, Atlanta is 2-0 against teams from the division with wins against Kansas City and Denver. This week they hope to make it three in a row as they face the San Diego Chargers (Atlanta will play the fourth AFC West team, the Oakland Raiders, on October 14 at the Georgia Dome).
Just like the Monday Night Football game against Denver, Atlanta will be facing a very capable quarterback in Philip Rivers as both teams hope to leave QUALCOMM Stadium a perfect 3-0.
For the Falcons, the key to winning in San Diego is to figure out the Chargers defense. While the offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, they’ve been enough. San Diego averages 247 yards in the air and 90 on the ground (15th and 22nd respectively), but scores 30 points a game (fifth best in the league).
Rivers may have only passed for 515 yards in the first two games, but he’s been very efficient. He’s completed nearly 74 percent of his passes, thrown four touchdowns and only one interception. Rivers’ QB rating is an impressive 110.7.
There are two primary weapons for Rivers in the air. Receiver Malcom Floyd leads the team with 10 receptions and 175 yards, but tight end Dante Rosario has three of Philips’ four touchdowns. Perennial Pro-Bowl candidate tight end Antonio Gates has only made four receptions for 43 yards in the first two games. If Atlanta’s secondary performs like they did against Peyton Manning, Rivers and his wide receivers should be no problem. Atlanta currently has a +7 turnover ratio,
Defensively is where the Chargers reign supreme. While San Diego allows 225 yards of passing offense (twelfth best in the league), they rank in the top five in the other major categories. San Diego allows just 12 points a game (second best), 265 total yards of offense (third best) and just 41.5 rushing yards (tops in the league).
The San Diego rushing defense could be a huge problem for Atlanta. The Falcons currently have the 26th ranked rushing attack, averaging slightly less than 76 yards a game, and Atlanta’s top running back Michael Turner may not be suiting up for the game.
If Turner doesn’t play, Atlanta needs to find a replacement running back and quickly. Matt Ryan is Atlanta’s second leading rusher with 44 yards and the only Falcon to average nearly five yards a carry. Ryan also is the only Falcon other than Turner to have a rushing touchdown.
Just like the Chargers, Atlanta’s yardage numbers may not be impressive (325.5 yards a game, 21st in the league), but the points they put up definitely are. Atlanta’s 67 total points scored is second only to Washington’s 68 points.
Just like Rivers, Matt Ryan has been the very definition of an elite quarterback. Ryan has completed 70 percent of his passes, five touchdowns and no interceptions for a QB rating of 117.6. Ryan has three receivers currently over 100 yards receiving already: Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones. The trio is responsible for all of Matty Ice’s touchdown passes.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.