Game Preview: Falcons vs. Ravens


The numbers all point to the Ravens getting their fifth win of the season this Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons visit M&T Bank Stadium.

The Falcons (2-4) are riding a three-game losing streak and have yet to win on the road this season.  The Ravens (4-2) are nearly unbeatable in Baltimore, especially against NFC teams, as they have a 12-1 record at home against NFC teams during Head Coach John Harbaugh's tenure.

Baltimore is a 7-point favorite – its largest point spread of the season – but the players and coaches insist they aren't taking a talented Falcons team for granted.

"Atlanta is good. You watch them," Harbaugh said. "That's an explosive football team, and we better be ready for it."

The Ravens quickly moved on from last week's commanding 48-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the veteran players emphasized that the Ravens had to focus its attention on the Falcons who are desperate for the win.

"We're not kidding ourselves – it's the NFL, and we're dealing with a phenomenal team right now," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "And we're definitely going to have to play some good football to come out with a win."

Three Matchups To Watch

CB Jimmy Smith vs. WR Julio JonesThis matchup is the main event Sunday. Smith and Jones are two of the best players in the league at their respective positions, and they could likely spend much of the day battling*each other. Jones leads Atlanta's passing attack, and he ranks third in the NFL with 620 receiving yards. Smith has often drawn the tough assignment of defending the top receiver on the opposing team, and Jones could very well be the best that he's seen all year.*

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Jake MatthewsThis is an old school vs. new school matchup. The veteran defender has tormented opposing tackles for years, and now he'll get his first look at this year's second-overall draft pick. The Falcons drafted Matthews with expectations to make him the team's franchise left tackle, and he has already settled into the starting job. Suggs is coming off another impressive game this season, and he'll certainly look to give the young lineman a crash course on life in the NFL.

WR Steve Smith Sr. vs. CB Robert AlfordSmith will go up against a familiar foe this week with another matchup against the NFC South. Smith has played his best games against teams in the division where he spent 13 seasons – he has three touchdowns and 249 receiving yards in this year's games against the Panthers and Buccaneers. Now the Falcons have their shot to slow down the veteran receiver, who currently ranks fifth in the NFL in receiving yards.

Three Keys to the Game

Flacco Keeps CookingThe seventh-year quarterback is coming off arguably the best game in of his career, where he threw five touchdowns in the first two quarters. Now Flacco and the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium, where the offense has been stellar. Flacco has never bought into the mentality that momentum carries over from week to week, but the Ravens are certainly hoping that he can stay hot against Atlanta.

Third-Down ConversionsKeeping drives alive on third down was preached going into last week's game against Tampa Bay, and the Ravens took the message to heart. The Ravens converted 7-of-13 third downs, including 5-of-8 during an offensive explosion in the first half. Three of the Ravens' first four touchdowns all came on third down. The Ravens know they won't match last week's production every single game, but having success on third downs is a point of emphasis for this offense.

Avoid Big Plays On DefenseThe Falcons offense thrives on the big play, and Atlanta currently ranks third in the league in passing yards per game. Baltimore's secondary will have to keep the Falcons' dynamic receiving threats in front of them, and avoid the long gains over the top. If the safeties can limit the deep balls to players like Jones and Roddy White, then the Falcons will have to try a dink-and-dunk method to move the football.

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