Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers Preview

The Atlanta Falcons (2-0) head out west to take on the San Diego Chargers (2-0) at 4:05 p.m. this Sunday in a battle of two undefeated teams.

The Falcons are coming off a huge 27-21 victory Monday night against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Atlanta and San Diego last met on November 30, 2008, with Atlanta winning the match-up 22-16 in Qualcomm Stadium. The Falcons are 5-0 when facing the Chargers on the road and own the series with a 7-1 record. Falcons head coach Mike Smith holds a 5-0 record when traveling out to the West Coast.

Michael Turner returns to Qualcomm for the second time in his career after leaving San Diego and signing with Atlanta as a free agent. In the 2008 match-up, Turner had 31 rushes for 120 yards.

Early Tuesday morning, Turner was jailed on suspicion of DUI and speeding, just hours after the game versus the Broncos. There’s been no confirmation as whether or not he will not will not play.

Regardless of who will be carrying the ball, Atlanta’s struggling running game should continue to struggle versus the league’s top ranked run defense. San Diego only allows 41.5 rushing yards per game, while Atlanta only gains 75.5 yards per game on the ground.

The Falcons will need to look the air for success. Matt Ryan currently has the top passer rating in the league at 117.6, thanks in part to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s uptempo offense. Having Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside with Tony Gonzalez working the middle certainly makes things easier as well.

However, Ryan’s success can be largely attributed to the vastly improved pass blocking of his offensive line. He has only been sacked twice, whereas last season he was sacked nine times (and hit several times) after two games.

Philip Rivers’ 110.7 passer rating isn’t too far behind Ryan’s. Rivers has only thrown one interception, but that could change against an Atlanta defense that has picked off opposing quarterbacks five times. Look for the Falcons to implement some of the same schemes used to confuse Manning last Monday.

The Chargers offense will be getting a big boost with the return of tight end Antonio Gates and running back Ryan Mathews. Gates was inactive for last week’s game versus the Tennessee Titans, and Matthews will be making his season debut. Rivers performed well without the two players, so having them return could poise problems for the Falcons.

Mathews will be rushing against the league’s 25th ranked rush defense. The Falcons had trouble defending Jamaal Charles in Week 1 and Willis McGahee in Week 2; they have allowed an average of 135.0 yards per game.

The Falcons will need to start fast – and they have in their first two games – in order to put the Chargers away. However, whereas the Falcons have scored 40 points in the first half this season, the Chargers have only allowed three points.

I’ll give the edge to the Falcons because of the success they’ve had traveling to the West Coast under Smith, and the success they’ve had against the Chargers overall.

Numbers Comparison

Atlanta Falcons:

Points Scored: 33.5 (2nd)
Total Offense: 325.5 (21st)
Passing Offense: 250.0 (12th)
Rushing Offense: 75.5 (27th)

Points Allowed: 22.5 (12th)
Total Defense: 364.5 (18th)
Passing Defense: 229.5 (14th)
Rushing Defense: 135.0 (25th)

San Diego Chargers:

Points Scored: 30.0 (6th)
Total Offense: 337.0 (19th)
Passing Offense: 247.0 (15th)
Rushing Offense: 90.0 (23rd)

Points Allowed: 12.0 (2nd)
Total Defense: 266.5 (3rd)
Passing Defense: 225.0 (12th)
Rushing Defense: 41.5 (1st)

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