The 1-0 Atlanta Falcons and 1-0 Cincinnati Bengals collide in Ohio on Sunday, marking the 13th-career matchup, between the clubs. The Falcons lead the all-time series, 7-5, including wins in the last three contests, dating back to 2002. Falcons head coach Mike Smith is 1-0 against his former colleague, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, stemming from the last time the teams faced each other, a Falcons 39-32 victory at the Georgia Dome in 2010.
Top Matchup: Falcons WR Julio Jones vs Bengals WR A.J. Green
This was a no-brainer, given both star receivers entered the league as first-round picks in 2011, Green selected with the fourth-overall pick and Jones drafted with the sixth-overall pick. The early reviews for both WRs have been better than advertised, continuing in 2014. Last week, Green helped the Bengals earn a victory against the Baltimore Ravens, hauling in a 77-yard TD reception, while Jones' effort in a Week 1 Falcons victory included seven receptions for 116 yards, as well as a huge block, freeing RB Antone Smith on a 54-yard TD reception. While the WRs will continually be compared, throughout their entire careers, Falcons fans are focused on Sunday, hoping Jones' skills not only outshine Green's efforts, but also lead to a Falcons victory.
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons K Matt Bryant
Despite earning the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Bryant will still be under the radar, unless the game comes down to another game-tying and/or game-winning-kick scenario, similar to his accolades in Week 1. Moving outdoors for the Week 2 road test, Bryant emphasized his approach: "I'll go out there in pregame and alter my stuff, based upon the weather. For me, I pick spots up in the stadium and I'll aim for that spot; so, I'm not trying to make it through the uprights, I'm trying to hit the spot that's back behind the uprights." Click here to go "Behind the Facemask" with Bryant.
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons QB Matt Ryan
One of the most-popular questions this week involved whether or not Ryan can have a repeat performance of his record-setting win against the Saints; being named the NFC's Player of the Week and most-recently as the FedEx Air Player of the Week, Ryan is on most everyone's radar. If the team's signal-caller is protected as well as he was in Week 1, despite not having starting left tackle Jake Matthews this week, the game's outcome could also be the same for the Falcons.
After a thrilling overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints in the season-opener, here are some storylines to watch heading into the Week 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Number of the Game: 201
The last time the Falcons and Bengals met (2010), Falcons WR Roddy White made headlines and hopes to do the same, (listed as probable), this time around. He caught 11 passes for 201 yards and two TDs in a 39-32 Falcons win in the Georgia Dome. If White posts such numbers again, the team could indeed have a victorious plane ride home.
Also, let's not forget that White currently sits one touchdown shy of former Falcons WR Terance Mathis' club record of 57-career receiving scores.
Three Keys to Victory:
1. Eliminate Big Plays: Bengals QB Andy Dalton completed 25-of-38 passes for 301 yards last Sunday, including the 77-yard touchdown to Green, who finished the game with 131 yards on six receptions and one touchdown. If the Falcons defense prevents such big-play strikes, a win would be more likely within reach.
2. Follow the Plan: Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong preaches "follow the plan" on a weekly basis to his group. Winning the field-position battle, as well as keeping the Bengals from a special-teams score, will be vital on Sunday. When asked about the return abilities of Bengals CB Adam Jones, Armstrong was very specific: "He's slippery, elusive, quick, still explosive and on top of all of that, he's very creative; he creates on the run." Keeping Jones off the highlight reel with prove beneficial for the visiting Falcons.
3. Communication is Key: The "Jungle" is going to be rocking on Sunday and noise could play a factor, if the Falcons don't do their thing and put up points. As for battling the crowd noise on offense, White is confident the team can handle it: "We use a lot of hand signals, "White said. "We just have to pay attention, get the calls, line up and run the routes."