ATLANTA FALCONS (2-0)
at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (2-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT
Line: San Diego -3, Total: 47˝
A pair of unbeaten teams square off on Sunday afternoon when the Chargers try to beat the Falcons for the first time since 1988.
San Diego is 2-0 despite a rash of injuries. They torched the Titans last week despite being without TE Antonio Gates (ribs), RB Ryan Mathews (collarbone) and LT Jared Gaither (back). There’s a good chance Mathews and Gates will be back for this game. The Falcons will present the first major test for San Diego’s suspect secondary though, as WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White will present a far tougher challenge than Oakland’s and Tennessee’s injury-ravaged receiving groups did. The Falcons have fared very well against the AFC in recent years, going 14-4 SU and 13-4-1 ATS against AFC opponents since 2008. Atlanta has won five straight meetings in this series, but is just 3-2 ATS during this streak.
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Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been on the mark with a league-best 117.6 QB rating. He has completed 70.1% of his passes for 518 yards, 5 TD and 0 INT in the two victories. Ryan’s top three receivers all have 16+ catches, with WR Roddy White the team leader in yards (189) while WR Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez have each scored two touchdowns. Ryan last faced San Diego in 2008 when he threw for 207 yards and 2 TD in a 22-16 road win. Atlanta’s success through the air in 2012 has made its once-formidable ground game rather ordinary. RB Michael Turner is averaging a pathetic 2.6 yards per carry, gaining just 74 yards on 28 attempts. Turner was arrested for DUI after the Monday night win over Denver, but should not face any discipline from the league as a first-time offender. Other than Ryan (4.9 YPC), the rest of Atlanta’s team is averaging a collective 2.5 yards per carry with 107 yards on 42 attempts. Defensively, the run-stop unit has been less than stellar, allowing 135 rushing YPG (25th in NFL), but was much better against Denver (4.4 YPC) than against Kansas City (4.6 YPC) in Week 1. The secondary is still adjusting to starting CB Brent Grimes on IR (Achilles), but this team continues to make big plays, forcing seven turnovers and not committing a single one so far this season.
Despite not having his two best offensive weapons in Week 2, San Diego QB Philip Rivers still shined with three touchdown passes, all to backup TE Dante Rosario. Rivers has been locked in over the first two games of 2012, completing 74% of his passes for 515 yards, 4 TD and just 1 INT. Although TE Antonio Gates was a late scratch for Week 2 because of bruised ribs, he should be able to start on Sunday. The ground game has certainly missed Mathews, who broke his collarbone in the preseason. But all signs point to him being on the field Sunday to help his Chargers team that has rushed for a paltry 3.1 yards per carry. However, on the other side of the football, San Diego’s run-stop unit has been impenetrable in the first two weeks of the season, allowing a mere 83 yards on 30 carries (2.8 YPC). The pass defense improved from Week 1 when the Raiders threw for 276 yards on 6.0 YPA. Despite trailing big most of the game, Tennessee managed just 174 passing yards (5.8 YPA) last week in the 38-10 blowout.