A couple of 2-0 teams square off at Jack Murphy Stadium on Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers will determine to see which team starts off 3-0 in the 2012 season. These two teams don’t face each other that often, as this is the only the 8th time these two have faced each other. The Falcons have history on their side, winning 7 of those 8 encounters, including a 22-16 decision over San Diego back in 2008.
When The Falcons Have The Ball:
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is off to a superb start in 2012. The fifth year Boston College grad has completed 70.1% of his passes for 518 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two games. Matty Ice has look composed and controlled in the pocket, making excellent reads and smart decisions when throwing the football. Ryan hasn’t won a playoff game as of yet, but many think this year, he will get over that hump.
However, there is some drama in the Falcons camp. Michael Turner was arrested and charged with a DUI after Monday night’s win over Denver. The power running back will suit up for Atlanta on Sunday, after apologizing to his teammates, but just how effective he will be, is the big question.
Both Falcon receivers, Julio Jones and Roddy White are questionable for Sunday’s game. Jones has a thigh issue that is healing slowly. White is battling a knee injury, which he suffered on Monday night. If neither can go, it will greatly reduce the weapons Ryan can throw to. The running game will be more prominent to the Falcons, and they have struggled in the ground game. The Falcons are hoping Jones and White will be ready for kickoff on Sunday.
The Chargers defence has been outstanding so far this season. The Lightning Bolts have given up just 24 points in 2 games this season. Linebacker Shaun Phillips has 2 sacks, and is dangerous off the edge. Phillips had a very disappointing 2011 campaign, and is looking to have a comeback season. He’s off to a terrific start, and is motivated to prove that last season was just an aberration.
When The Chargers Have The Ball:
Philip Rivers is off to a solid start this season. The 9 year veteran quarterback has a 73.8% completion rate, throwing for 515 yards, 4 touchdowns to 1 interception. Rivers has look much more settled in the pocket this season, compared to 2011, in which he threw 20 picks last season. Rivers demeanour will need to stay even-keeled for the Chargers to remain successful.
The Chargers are hoping that running back Ryan Matthews has fully healed from his collarbone injury. The third year back from Fresno State, has yet to play a down this season, but is listed as probable for Sunday’s game. If Matthews is ready to go, he will provide a huge boost to the Chargers offence.
One thorny issue of the passing game is the health of tight end Antonio Gates. The 10 year veteran is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game due to bruised ribs. If Gates cannot go, it will limit Rivers options over the middle, where Gates eats up receptions for breakfast. Expect to see Randy McMichael on the field more often than usual on Sunday. While he’s not as productive as Gates, McMichael is an efficient replacement and arguably a better blocker. Malcolm Floyd leads all Charger receivers with 10 catches for 175 yards this season. Dante Rosario had 3 touchdown receptions last week for San Diego and some experts are calling him, a player on the rise. That remains to be seen, but he did look sharp against Tennessee last week, and Rivers should be looking for him, when other options are not available.
The Falcons defence have conceded yards and points, but have come up with big plays this season. Atlanta intercepted three Peyton Manning passes in the first quarter last week, setting the tempo for Atlanta’s win on Monday night. Safety William Moore has two picks, which leads the Falcons. The secondary is aided by a solid pass rush, which has recorded 6 sacks this season. However, one of the Falcons top pass rushers, defensive end John Abraham is questionable with a knee problem. If Abraham can’t go, look for the Chargers offensive line to double team defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, whose 2 sacks leads the Falcons, and has been a terror to quarterbacks this season. The Falcons could also be without linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is listed as questionable, with a knee injury.
Since these two teams don’t play each other that much, there isn’t much of a rivalry to speak of. But that shouldn’t mean it won’t be an entertaining game. However, with Turner’s off-field issues combined with injuries to the Falcons, means that this will be tough for Atlanta to win on the road against a quality opponent. Not totally sold on the Chargers, but they will squeak out a 24-21 win, and improve to 3-0.
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