Win the ball, win the game
One of the biggest components to Atlanta's success thus far has been their regard for the football. The Falcons are plus-three in the turnover margin, tied for eighth in the NFL.
Coach Dan Quinn is looking for this margin to increase. So far, the Falcons have created 11 takeaways and have only turned it over eight times. Atlanta has forced six interceptions – a number they would like to see grow as the season continues, starting on Sunday. In Arizona's five losses, they are minus-eight in the turnover margin.
For the Atlanta's offense, ball security will be crucial.
Arizona owns one of the league's top defenses, starting up front with their vaunted pass rush. The Cardinals rank seventh in sacks with 26 and have forced 10 fumbles (sixth best in the NFL). Their 17 takeaways are also tied for fifth-best in the NFL.
"I talked to the team about trying to increase the turnover margin, we are at plus-three," Quinn said. "How do we keep getting that arrow going up? Get into the plus, we know we'll have our chances on that."
It all starts in the trenches
Sunday's game features a matchup of two teams with a strong commitment to the run game. Atlanta's multi-faceted running back, Tevin Coleman, will be back in the lineup for the Falcons after missing three games with a hamstring injury. The Cardinals will have to account for the 1-2 punch that is Devonta Freeman and Coleman who have combined for 1,485 total yards of offense.
The Falcons know they'll have their hands full trying to contain one of the league's top running backs in David Johnson. The second-year back has emerged onto the scene as he currently ranks second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,373.
As mentioned above, the Cardinals' defensive front is known for the pressure they bring on their opponents. Arizona has blitzed on 36.1 percent of plays this season, which is fifth in the NFL. Atlanta's offensive line will be tasked with limiting the production of Chandler Jones, Markus Golden and Calais Campbell to give quarterback Matt Ryan time in the pocket.
"I think it's going to be a line of scrimmage day," Quinn said. "Both teams like to run it, both teams are physical teams. Our offensive line versus their defense [when we] are trying to run it; our defensive line and linebackers against their offense [when they are] trying to run it."
Win the explosive play ratio
The explosive play ratio could play a major role in the final outcome on Sunday at the Georgia Dome; Atlanta is plus-16 in the explosive play ratio and Arizona is plus-20. Both teams possess a multitude of play makers who've demonstrated the ability to be game-changers.
The Falcons' defense has allowed 78 explosive plays and when facing an offense as versatile as Arizona's, keeping this number down will be vital. Although it all starts with Arizona's running game, the Cardinals' passing game can also present challenges, as they have four players with over 300 receiving yards this season.
"We are one of the top offenses [in terms of creating explosive plays] and defensively they've played well eliminating a lot of explosive plays," Quinn said. "Who was has a better margin in explosive plays?"