Atlanta's linebackers and safeties versus San Diego's tight ends
Chargers legend Antonio Gates is still playing strong, and joining him at tight end is rookie Hunter Henry, who has been stellar thus far in 2016. The second-round pick out of Arkansas has tallied 19 catches for 310 yards and three touchdowns in just six NFL games.
"For a big guy, he's got great body balance," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said about Henry. "You can split him out and play him as a wide receiver. He's done that at Arkansas and they do it some with him in San Diego. But it's the combination of a big guy who's 6-foot-5 who can turn and play the ball where he's not tight or stiff. He's very loose as an athlete. That's a challenge for that big of a guy who can turn and go. He's got good speed and good hands. I think he's well on his way to being a good tight end."
Containing the Gates/Henry duo will be important for Atlanta's defense. With LB De'Vondre Campbell expected to receive a full load of work and SS Keanu Neal looking sharp in the secondary, the Falcons appear to be in good shape to handle this challenge.
RT Schraeder versus OLB Bosa
Despite a holdout that caused him to miss the first four regular season games, Joey Bosa has quickly become a dangerous pass-rusher for San Diego. The third-overall pick out of Ohio State recorded a pair of sacks during his Chargers debut, and has added three QB hits and 14 pressures to his statline.
Bosa has lined up primarily on the left side, so Ryan Schraeder will likely be tasked with blocking the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder.
"As far as Bosa goes, you see him line up, he's really settling into the defensive end spot," Quinn told the San Diego media. "He's very active with his hands; I've always thought he's really strong. I think he moves a little better than I even thought. He's lighter, but his quickness looks to really be on point."
Atlanta's RBs versus San Diego's front seven
The Falcons had a difficult time running the ball last week, gaining 52 rushing yards on 18 carries. San Diego won't make it easy for the ground game to get back on track: The Chargers have surrendered just 83.5 rushing yards per contest this year, the fifth-least in the NFL.
According to Quinn, a key to getting Freeman and Coleman going will be to have the kind of balance the Falcons have often established in 2016. Preventing San Diego from jumping out in front will be important to making sure that happens.
"When you get behind and the score kind of gets twisted early on it leads to more passing so for us, the balance, that's what we love when the play action and the keepers are a part of our run game," Quinn said. "That's when we're at our best. We'll have our opportunities for it and we need to nail those."