Atlanta, who is 7-1 all time against the Chargers, will have a double dose of extra hardship this week, having to not only travel from coast to coast, but also do it on a short week after a Monday night game.
The Falcons defense, who picked off Peyton Manning three times last week, will have to come up with another gritty performance against Phillip Rivers, who will have all of his offensive weapons back and at his disposal for the first time all season.
Atlanta will be without yet another starting defensive back, as Christopher Owens, who as injured early on in the game against the Denver Broncos last week, was placed in the NFL concussion protocol program and will be unavailable to play in San Diego.
This will mean more snaps and playing time for both Robert McClain and Dominique Franks, with head coach Mike Smith alluding to McClain taking on a bigger role in an interview earlier this week.
The game within the game that a many will be watching is the match-up of two of the all-time great tight ends in the history of the NFL – Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Although the two premier players wont face each other head-to-head on the field, the comparisons that will go on throughout the game are inevitable.
A key for the Falcons on defense is to stop the San Diego running attack and to force the Chargers into becoming one-dimensional. Rivers plays better when the Chargers use a balanced attack, and he isn’t forced to throw the ball excessively. When you make Rivers try to take over the game, he is prone to mistakes.
The Chargers are strong up front against the run, so Atlanta may have yet another week of limited success running the ball, especially given the legal distractions that starting RB Michael Turner has faced throughout the week. The Falcons will do well to continue as they have in the first two weeks, and use the pass to set up the run later in the game.
This should be a closely contested game, and may come down to being the team that wins the turnover battle and makes the fewest mistakes coming out on top.
Falcons injury report: CB Christopher Owens (head) – Out; OT Tyson Clabo (hip) – Questionable; RB Antone Smith (hamstring) – Out; LB Sean Weatherspoon (thigh) – Questionable.
Prediction: Falcons move to 3-0, with a 27-24 victory over the Chargers on the road