The Atlanta Falcons host the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome in Week 13. Sunday's game marks the 28th meeting between the two clubs with the Cardinals holding a 15-12 lead in the all-time series. Arizona won the last meeting between the two teams, 27-13, at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2013.
Top Matchup: Falcons WR Julio Jones vs Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson
An SEC rivalry is renewed when Jones and Peterson meet on Sunday. Jones, who starred at Alabama, leads the Falcons with 72 receptions and 980 receiving yards this season. He'll look to add to those numbers against Peterson, a former standout cornerback at LSU. Since their collegiate days, Jones and Peterson have faced each other one time in the NFL in 2012. For those keeping score at home, Jones finished with three receptions for 33 yards in Atlanta's 23-19 victory. Peterson ended the same Week 10 contest with one punt return for seven yards and four tackles. Sunday's matchup between the two high-profile stars is sure to be one of the most intriguing battles on the field.
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons C James Stone
Stone has a plateful of tasks on Sunday, including identifying which of his teammates on the line is responsible for blocking Arizona's numerous defensive threats. Defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Alex Okafor each enter Week 13 with six quarterback sacks. "They're very talented up front," Stone said. "They can rush the passer, and they do a great job of getting guys in a lot of single-block situations. We're going to have to be very solid and focused on our technique to match what they throw at us."
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons S William Moore
Falcons fans know "Willy-Mo" is always ready. The team's strong strong safety was added to the active roster this week for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in Week 4. All week, Moore's energy has been contagious and his attitude and demeanor on the practice field equally significant. He's the heart and soul of the defense, ready to make the most of his return to the field.
Number of the Game: 10.27
Arizona running back Andre Ellington offers the Cardinals a dual-threat, logging 648 rushing yards and 395 receiving yards in 2014. In his one-career game against the Falcons in 2013, Ellington carried the ball 15 times for 154 yards and one touchdown, boasting a 10.27-yards-per-carry average. If Atlanta is to earn its fifth win of the season, minimizing Ellington's big-play ability will prove vital.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Protect the Ball: Arizona's plus-10 turnover differential is third best in the league, while the Falcons are ranked ninth at plus-four. If Atlanta protects that ball and hopefully rattles Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton into errant throws, the Falcons will be much closer to accomplishing their goal of being 1-0 this week.
2. The Trust Factor: The Falcons coaching staff has preached all year for the guys to focus on their jobs, not worrying about the individual talents of their opponents. The game plan is set. The work is complete, and it's now time for the players to transfer a week's worth of effort onto the field. "We have to stay disciplined," Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann said. "You have to trust the man next to you. You have to play fast and physical. We're ready to do that."
3. Patience Pays Off: In two-career games against the Cardinals, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is 1-1, learning valuable lessons from each contest that can benefit his team on Sunday. "You have to be patient," Ryan said. "You have to understand that they're going to make some plays. They're going to get you off schedule at certain times, but you have to continue to take what's there, and I have to do a better job than I've done the previous two times against them."