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Point-Counterpoint: Falcons vs. Cardinals


### There are two sides to every argument

Every week there's a rush of information in the days leading up to Game day. Bloggers, TV analysts, reporters, fans...everyone has an opinion and in the age of hyper-speed new media, everyone's got a chance to share it.

But sometimes it's tough to focus through all the noise.

Here we examine three story lines entering Week 2 that you'll surely hear all about. We present the flipside, the ideas from inside the walls of the team headquarters, to suggest what the Atlanta Falcons are thinking of the popular headlines.

What they will say:Facing the Cardinals for the first time since the 2008 playoff loss — a season where the franchise exceeded all expectations on their way to an 11-5 mark — the Falcons will be looking for revenge.

What we're saying:It was two seasons ago. It doesn't mean anything.

Turnover in the NFL happens at breakneck speed. Many key players in the playoff game on both teams are no longer with their respective teams. Both teams are at different points of progression in their franchise. Although the Falcons haven't returned to the playoffs, they've continued to build a strong roster of nucleus players and appear on the rise. The Cardinals, two-year veterans of the playoffs, lost their franchise quarterback to retirement last season in addition to two key playmakers on both sides of the ball, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith recently echoed these statements.

"I think it has no bearing on it whatsoever, and again, that was a game that was played two years ago," Smith said. "Their roster has changed significantly, our roster has changed significantly, so I really don't (think it's relevant)."

What they will say:The focus of the once-mighty Arizona offense will be on new quarterback Derek Anderson and the team's talented receivers.

What we're saying:The focus of the offense will be on running back Beanie Wells, who returns to action in Week 2.

Wells, Arizona's first-round draft pick in 2009, is expected to assume the feature back role this season. With Anderson at the helm without a wealth of starting experience, the Cardinals will look to relieve some pressure by pounding Wells. Atlanta will still need to keep the passing game in check, but the Cardinals may beat themselves in that phase. Wells has the ability to carry the ball 30 times, put the team on his back and grind out a victory.

Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt had the ability and the players for a high-flying passing attack in previous seasons. This season he may return to his roots when he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He prefers a heavy ground game and the Falcons will be ready for an Arizona change of pace.

What they will say:The Cardinals must stop the fumbles and improve their ball security.

What we're saying:Arizona will focus on ending their Week 1 trend, but the Falcons will make forcing fumbles a Week 2 top priority.

Last Sunday was a win for the Cardinals, but it was far from pretty. In an effort that showed some concerns, Arizona fumbled the football seven times, losing four of them. Running back Tim Hightower lost both of his. Rookie wide receiver Max Komar fumbled three times, but only lost one of them. Anderson fumbled twice and recovered once.

Those who didn't watch the Falcons every day of OTAs and training camp didn't see a defense that can be as fast as they can be physical. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has worked with Smith to find players with the unique combination of speed, toughness and intelligence. In many positions they've hit on that trait. A key teaching of the Falcons is every man running to the ball. Even in Week 1 this was evident. Rarely is one lone Falcon tackling an opponent. Last week Atlanta showed how physical they can be on defense against Pittsburgh, a team known for its own toughness. This week they will look to extend that to the Cardinals, a team not often associated with physical play.

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