The ball is everything for the Falcons week in and week out, but this Sunday, it might be more important than ever.
Kansas City leads the NFL with 24 takeaways that have led to 72 points and a plus-14 turnover differential. The Chiefs are 7-0 when winning the turnover battle this season. CB Marcus Peters ranks second in the NFL with five interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
"They've done a great job," head coach Dan Quinn said. "They are at plus-14, so the turnover margin in this game [is going to be really important]. When we are at 0 or plus in the turnover margin, we've done well."
Atlanta is 6-3 when they are even or plus in the turnover margin and has done a remarkable job protecting the football this season. The Falcons will look to continue their ball-hawking mentality on defense and force Chiefs' offense to turn the ball over.
Special teams cover units will play major role
Kansas City has one of the most dynamic returners in the game in Tyreek Hill and containing him will be key for the Falcons. The rookie receiver possesses electric speed and his shifty style of running gives him the ability to make defenders miss if they don't play him the right way.
Atlanta will look to pin Kansas City back in their own territory and make quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs' offense go the length of the field.
"Special teams drive starts inside the 20-yard line is going to be important," Quinn said. "That's going to be the cover units on both teams. They are plus-six in drive starts inside the [20-yard line] and were at plus-two inside the 20-yard line. They've got good returners, let's make sure we're not giving up hidden yardage in that way."
The run game will be a factor on both sides
For the Falcons, it all starts up front. Atlanta's ability to run the ball sets up everything for their offense. The Chiefs have a knack for taking the ball away in the air, so getting the run game going can really take the pressure off Matt Ryan and Atlanta's aerial attack.
"For our offense, it allows us to extend drives because sometimes third downs aren't 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-9. I think that was a real factor (four our defense) in last week's game versus Arizona, they were in third-and-long [a lot]," Quinn said.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons will look to continue on last week's performance of shutting down their opponents' ground game.
Eliminating the production of Kansas City's run game on first and second down will be key to containing this part of their game.
"For our run defense, to make sure we aren't living in 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-3 which is a very difficult third down to manage," Quinn said.