Short rest. Quick turnaround. Short time to heal from and celebrate their week 9 victory. The Ravens fly south to flock against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night. With both teams standing at 6-2 and some saying this could be a Super Bowl preview, it will be question of who can handle the short week, short rest and a battle of two similar birds for this AFC-NFC showdown.
Peter King reminded us in his MMMQ – Tuesday Edition that ATL QB Matt Ryan could have been a Raven back in the 2008 draft had the Rams agreed to a trade for draft picks. Had this have happened, the Ravens would not be enjoying the services of RB Ray Rice and all of those yards he runs up on the stat sheets. It’s funny how things work out and both sides are happy with their 3rd year QB’s who are settling in on their position and climbing the ladder to elite QB status. Both of these QB’s have Linus’ blanket – Roddy White (who is expected to play despite a knee injury last Sunday) and Derrick Mason – to keep them assured of completions. And both have the comfort of a defense that puts them in offensive positions to score. But maybe Ryan has the edge when it comes to winning at home – he is 17-1 at home since becoming the Falcons starting QB. Flacco is going to have chances to throw dimes and for long yardage as the Falcons are ranked a lowly 26th against the pass giving up an average of 250.5 yds/game and have a penchant for giving up long balls in their last three games. The Tubbies on the Line will have to keep the aggressive Falcons blitzing packages from disrupting Flacco. The Falcons are good if not great at creating turnovers, having 13 interceptions from 10 different players.
Defensively, the Ravens come into the game ranked 13th defensively against the run allowing 104.8 yards/game. This is not the Ravens run defense that we have come to know and love. Thus, the team is going to have to shore up the front line and keep RB Michael Turner from racking up yards. Turner has ran over and through teams for 100+ yards in 4 of his last six games. However, maybe the 3-4 Ravens D will give him some trouble. Disrupting Ryan’s rhythm and getting him uncomfortable in the pocket will bode well for the Ravens. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs won’t have many opportunities to get to Ryan as the Falcons have only yielded 13 sacks, but nonetheless, hurries and getting Ryan in long down situations is what the Ravens need.
When these two birds flock together on Thursday night, it will be a case of two different species with their sights on the same end season goal: the Lombardi Trophy. We have now turned the page to the second half of the season and all the pieces to a teams puzzle should be coming together. Both the Ravens and Falcons mirror each other, but the Ravens have the task of stopping both White and Turner. With teams so closely matched, whoever wins the turnover flies with a win.
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Written by Lea Anderson