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Falcons prepared for test in The Meadowlands


"That's a statistic that obviously no one's proud of," Ryan said.

"But I think it's gotten better the last few weeks. Really, the last three weeks we're protecting the football better.

"We're not throwing careless interceptions and I think that's been a huge thing for us," Ryan said. "If we win the turnover battle I think we're 6-0. That's something we're aware of and I'm sure our opponents are aware of it, as well... We're built on being able to run the football and play great defense. Not good defense, but great defense."

A part of that great defense is that the Jets are holding opponents to an astonishing 12.2 percent on third-down conversions over the last three games and have stopped their last 24 in a row.

Overall they rank second in the NFL at 33.0 percent.

For the Falcons, that area has represented a weakness all season, as they rank last in the NFL with opponents succeeding on 47.7 percent of their tries.

When it comes to turnover ratio, the teams are more even, with the Jets minus-1 (tied for 14th in the NFL) while the Falcons stand at minus-2 (tied for 18th).

Aside from the major role that turnovers are likely to play, the Falcons' chances should be strongly influenced by which players are available.

As has been the case for the third week in a row, the status of starting quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner represent an unknown at this point. The good news for the Falcons is that both participated in practice on Thursday, limited as they were, for the first time since Nov. 29's 20-17 victory over Tampa Bay -- the Falcons' most recent victory.

Turner said Thursday his sprained ankle remains "a little bit" tender and that he's "not quite 100 percent." However, he's optimistic.

"If it feels like that then no question I'll be playing," he said.

Matt Ryan would not handicap his chances of playing. He said being limited in repetitions would not hinder his ability to start.

"I think there's certainly different ways for everybody to go through it," he said. "I know that in college there's weeks where you get no reps and there's weeks where you get all the reps. Mentally -- that's where I think it's most important -- mentally, you just have to prepare yourself like I've been doing the past two weeks to get ready and play on Sunday and try and do everything in rehab and practice so your body can get out there, too."

Starting right guard Harvey Dahl (ankle) and tight end Justin Peelle (concussion) also are on the mend, as they have returned to practice after missing last week's game.

Whether the starter at quarterback is Ryan or Chris Redman, who has started the last two games and passed for more than 300 yards in last Sunday's 26-23 loss to New Orleans, the quarterback will have a lot to contend with.

The Jets' boast the NFL's top defense in total yards, including the top run defense.

When it comes to pass defense, the Jets have Pro-Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis -- whom Rex Ryan was not shy about praising.

"There's nobody close to him in this league and I've been in this league a long time and I've never seen anybody close to him," he said. "We put him on the best receiver each week and each week he doesn't just compete, he dominates."

This week, that figures to be Falcons' Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White, who shares an agent with Revis. The two hung out together at the Pro Bowl last year and White described the challenge of a Jets' defense that presents a myriad of befuddling looks to an offense.

"They got people flying around out there," White said. "They look fast, aggressive. They come after you. They just have a lot of people standing around. You don't know where they're coming from. That's their scheme. They disguise coverages real well and confuse people out there."

In addition to Revis, linebackers are a strength for the Jets and their 3-4 alignment in the form of Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and David Harris. Ryan said Harris (5.5 sacks, 120 tackles) is probably having the best year of any inside linebacker in the league.

When the Jets have the ball, the Falcons will have to contend with the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack.

Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, left guard Alan Faneca (an eight-time Pro Bowler), center Nick Mangold (2008 Pro Bowler) and right tackle Damien Woody (150 career starts) are all former first-round picks.

Behind them is running back Thomas Jones, 31, who achieved his fifth straight 1,000-yard season.

While Sanchez has started 12 games this season, Kellen Clemens started last week because of an injury to the rookie and Ryan is not tipping his hand so far this week. Smith said the Falcons would prepare for both.

Falcons left tackle Sam Baker, a teammate of Sanchez's at Southern California, has unique insights into Sanchez. Baker said the two work out together at the same facility in the offseason.

"At the beginning, he was off to that great start," Baker said. "You know he was very capable. He is really confident in his abilities. He's a guy that is very, very passionate about the game and really puts a lot -- a ton -- of work in…. Just Mark, his personality, he'll work through this real well. Just to start every game as a rookie is very difficult. I think he's going to bounce back from all this."

The Falcons must win to keep their tenuous playoff hopes alive.

Then, they also need the Dallas Cowboys to lose at New Orleans to keep their chances going.

The New York Giants, who visit Washington on Monday night, need to lose two of their remaining three for the Falcons to pass them while the Falcons must win all three of their games to have any chance of qualifying.

"Obviously, when you're playing in December," Redman said, "everything counts."


SCOUTING REPORT:Falcons know challenge aways in New York * FALCONCAST:J. Mike and Matt preview the game with Eric Allen of * J. MIKE'S MISSIVES:Updated practice news and more from the editor * MULTIMEDIA:Click here for Falcons-Jets interviews from * INJURY REPORT:Update injury news from Piedmont Healthcare * GAMEDAY LIVE:Pregame notes and more from * GAME CENTER:Stats and more on the game from * EXPERT'S TAKE:Wyche's thoughts on the Falcons, injuries * WHAT TO WATCH:Some key story lines to keep an eye on for Sunday * STATEMENT:Comments from Falcons wide receiver Eric Weems * NOTES AND NUMBERS:Some game notes and key numbers for the weekend * RELEASE:Warrick Dunn to be new limited partner with Falcons * HIGH SCHOOL:Falcons honor the best in Georgia high school football

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