From key matchups to the return of key players, keep an eye on these storylines heading into the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints.
During normal weeks of the NFL regular season, Tuesdays are a day of rest for the Falcons, allowing them to recharge and focus on the upcoming game of the week, which just happens to be against a bitter division rival, the New Orleans Saints. Nonetheless, regardless of their opponent, Falcons RB Steven Jackson may be the player most amped for Sunday's contest.
"I'm extremely excited for Week 1," Jackson said. "It's been a training camp that I missed the majority of the time, but I've been working hard physically and mentally to prepare for this coming Sunday; I feel good about it."
Jackson is the only active running back in the NFL to record at least 10,000 rushing yards and 3,500 receiving yards, just one of 10 players in NFL history to accomplish that feat; he's quick to credit Marty Lauzon, the Atlanta Falcons Director of Sports Medicine and Performance, and his staff for allowing him to get back on the field to add to those stats, helping his team.
"I think Marty and his training staff are the best in the NFL," Jackson said. "They've shown, time after time, not only with myself, but with the other guys here, that when we return to the field, we're able to play with the type of capabilities that we had before the injury."
In 10 seasons, Jackson has logged 2,553 carries for 10,681 yards (4.2 yards per carry) with 62 touchdowns. He's the NFL's active rushing leader and has posted eight-straight 1,000-yard seasons, between 2005-2012. In 2013, he rushed for 543 yards on 157 carries (3.5 yards per carry), with six touchdowns in his first season with the Falcons, also adding 33 receptions for 191 yards and one TD.
Despite limited reps in preseason practices, Jackson spent extra time not only with Lauzon and his staff, but also in the film room, where he took plenty of notes on the New Orleans Saints defense, hopefully providing an edge Sunday.
"They do a really good job of mixing in their personnel, bringing a lot of different defensive fronts and blitz packages," Jackson said of the Saints. "That means our offensive line and the running backs have to communicate and make sure we're seeing the same picture; we just have to be prepared for it."