ATLANTA – So, what's really at stake when the Tennessee Titans and the Atlanta Falcons square off Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?
For starters, let's just say that 2-2 looks a whole lot better than 1-3 a quarter into the regular season.
The Falcons are returning home after their second-half rally against the Colts fell three points short in Indianapolis. After blowing out the Browns on the road in their regular-season opener, the Titans have now dropped two straight games.
What the Titans are saying about the Falcons
Sitting at 1-2, this is hardly a must-win game for the Falcons but there's a great sense of urgency to get a win because of the manner in which they've lost their two games. In short, mistakes in the form of turnovers and penalties have cost the Falcons dearly in their two losses.
A few stats stick out: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, for what it's worth, leads the league with the most interceptions thrown at this point with six while Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't thrown a single pick yet. The Titans are averaging 112.7 rushing yards per game while the Falcons are averaging 74.3. On the flip side, Atlanta is allowing an average of 100 yards per game on the ground. The Titans have allowed 119 yards per game so far.
So, what will the Falcons need to in order to earn their second win of the season? I asked AtlantaFalcons.com writers Kelsey Conway and Will McFadden to weigh in. I'll offer my key to victory at the end.
Kelsey Conway: Get out to a lead early. I think if Matt Ryan and Co. can go down the field and score on their first offensive possession, the momentum the team could generate would be huge. Twice this season the Falcons have dug themselves a hole and had to climb back. I'd love to see them start the game with their foot on the gas pedal and not let off. They're completely capable of doing just that against the Titans
Will McFadden: Win the turnover battle. Penalties have gotten more attention after the Colts game, but turnovers have proven more costly for Atlanta through the first three games. The Titans have forced five turnovers this season, tied for the ninth-most, and their turnover differential of plus-four is tied for second-best in the league. The Falcons need to protect the ball and make Tennessee's defense stop their offense outright and getting a couple of takeaways would be huge.
Tabeek's Take: While a quick start and winning the turnover battle would certainly go a long way in securing a win on Sunday, I think the Falcons' defense could play a huge role in this one. Why? The Titans have done a poor job of protecting Mariota so far this season. Tennessee has allowed 17 sacks through three games (about 5.5 per game). In the Titans' 20-7 loss to the Jaguars last week, Mariota was sacked an astounding nine times and hit 12 more times. If the Falcons front can get to Mariota and disrupt the Titans offense, good things will happen for the Falcons (see turnovers and putting the ball back into Matt Ryan's hands). I think this Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett and company need to show up in a big way. If they do, I see the Falcons winning their second home game of the year.