Falcons' Week 3 preview

Matt Ryan and the Falcons travel west to face the hard-hitting Chargers defense.

Opponent: San Diego Chargers
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Time: 4:05 p.m.
Point Spread (Danny Sheridan's odds as published in USA Today): San Diego is favored by 3 with an over of 47
Key Offensive Match-up: The Chargers' strength on defense is, right now, a Falcons' weakness. The Chargers lead the NFL in holding opponents to a league-low 41.5 yards per game and the Falcons well documented struggles running the ball have them at 75.5 yards per game, tied for 26th in the league. Of particular concern is the health of Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo, a Pro-Bowler in 2010 and a key to the run game. Clabo struggled to complete last Monday's game against Denver with a hip injury that flared up. Clabo was listed as questionable entering Sunday's game but is active. Michael Turner, the former Charger who has only 74 rushing yards in two games this season, will need to have a big day. The Falcons ought to get a boost against the Chargers' 3-4 front – the kind against which they struggle at times to run the ball, especially in trying to get movement against the huge players who often occupy the nose tackle spot. Chargers Nose tackle Antonio Garay, 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, a 2010 Pro-Bowl alternate, is inactive for the game.
Key Defensive Match-up
: On the other side of the ball, the run also will be critical. Sunday will be the season debut for Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, who missed the first two games of the season with a clavicle injury. Matthews averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season and the Chargers rank second in the NFL in time of possession at 37:07 per game. The Falcons run defense has not been great so far as they rank 25th in allowing 135 yards per game. The Falcons have played much more nickel (five defensive backs, two linebackers) this season than they have their base defense (three linebackers, four defensive backs). Expect middle linebacker Akeem Dent, the second-year player who leaves the field in nickel situations, to play more. He will need to be effective. Also, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Atlanta will need to be aware of San Diego's Wildcat formation. Wide receiver Micheal Spurlock plays the quarterback in that situation. Last week, Ronnie Brown, something of a Wildcat specialist, played running back in those situations but Brown is inactive for the game.
Inactives: For the Falcons: quarterback Dominique Davis, cornerback Christopher Owens, center Joe Hawley, offensive tackle Lamar Holmes, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, defensive end Cliff Matthews. For the Chargers: safety Brandon Taylor, cornerback Shareece Wright, running back Ronnie Brown, linebacker Jonas Mouton, defensive tackle Antonio Garay, offensive tackle Jared Gaither and tight end Ladarius Green.

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