By Matthew Asher

After losing three straight and four of their past five games, this is now really do-or-die time for the Atlanta Falcons (2-4) if they want to turn around the season. Of course, nothing in the NFL is ever truly easy (with the exception of the Tampa Bay thumping) as Atlanta will travel to Maryland to take on the Baltimore Ravens (4-2).

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The main story of this game will be about the two quarterbacks as Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco were the top picks in the 2008 NFL Draft. Both men set a rookie record leading their teams to a 13-win season but the big difference has been their work in the playoffs. Flacco led Baltimore to the postseason from 2008-2012 and won at least postseason one game each season including a Super Bowl XLVII victory. Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to four postseasons but has won just one game in his five attempts in the playoffs.

Ravens Offense

The old Ravens teams led by defense are a thing of the past as Baltimore has a very balanced offensive attack. They rank in the top 10 of the league in both points scored and total yards gained. The Ravens average 27.3 points and 389.9 yards of offense each game, the fifth and ninth best in the league, respectively.

Flacco has completed about 64 percent of his throws for nearly 1600 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions for a respectable passer rating of 97.8. He’s also been sacked seven times. Three Ravens have racked up at least 20 receptions so far. Steve Smith leads the team in all receiving categories with 35 catches, 573 yards and four touchdowns. Owen Daniels has caught 20 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns himself.

Even without Ray Rice in the backfield for Baltimore, their running attack has remained an integral part of their winning ways. As a team the Ravens average 132.8 rushing yards each game, the ninth best in the NFL. Justin Forsett leads the team with 64 rushing attempts, 408 yards and three touchdowns. Bernard Pierce has 175 rushing yards and one touchdown on 47 carries and Lorenzo Taliaferro has picked up 196 yards on 40 rushes and two touchdowns. No other Raven has scored a rushing touchdown yet this season.

Ravens Defense

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Statistically the Baltimore defense really excels in just one department. That department is points allowed, the only one that truly matters when determining wins and losses. The Ravens allow just 16.2 points a game, the third best in the NFL. Baltimore is also competent at stopping the running game as they allow 90.7 yards, the ninth best in the league. Since this is Atlanta’s weak spot on offense it hopefully won’t matter too much.

Regarding total yards and passing yards, the Ravens are okay at best. They give up 361.2 total yards, ranking them 18th. However, their secondary has trouble stopping the passing game as they give up 270.5 yards in the air, 27th in the league. If Atlanta is going to win this game, it has to come through the air.

Three different Ravens are responsible for four total interceptions. Haloti Ngata has two interceptions while Jimmy Smith and C.J. Mosley each have one pick to their credit. Baltimore has picked up 10 total sacks with Elvis Dumervil leading the team with five.

Conclusion

This is a game Atlanta truly needs to win or else their postseason hopes will be dramatically lessened. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm ET at M&T Bank Stadium. #RiseUp

For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.

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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.