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Point-Counterpoint: Week 16


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 storylines entering Week 16 that you'll surely hear all about. We present the flipside — the ideas from inside the walls of team headquarters — to suggest what the Atlanta Falcons are thinking of the popular headlines.

What they will say:The Saints are coming to Atlanta, looking for revenge for the Week 3 loss to the Falcons in their home, the Superdome. Will the Falcons be ready?

What we're saying:The Falcons admit they enjoy playing at home. They admit they appreciate the fan-friendly environment Falcons fans create for them in the Georgia Dome. They won't go as far as to say they're unbeatable at home. What they will say is they know they're tough to beat at home.

The revenge they expect the Saints to be looking for is for last week's loss, a 30-24 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens.

What they will say:With a playoff spot in their clutches, the Falcons may let off the gas a little and could fall into the most unconventional of all trap games.

What we're saying:Because the Falcons believe what they do about playing at home, they'd much prefer to be there than on the road through the playoffs. Atlanta is a team focused and a team that has spent an entire season paying attention to the details.

The details of this game won't be lost on them. No one in the Falcons locker room will speak about losing to the Saints and being in position to lock up home field in Week 17 against the Panthers. It's there for the taking on Monday night and it wouldn't be prudent to do otherwise.

Atlanta won't do anything different this week, except use an extra day of preparation to their advantage. Sure, it's another week and another opponent, but they know what's at stake.

"With that said..."

"One of sixteen, but it is a good football team at this juncture of the year," quarterback Matt Ryan said on Sunday. "And also a division opponent so those add a little bit of weight. With that said, we approach the same every week regardless of who we're playing and try to prepare as best we can."

What they will say:Reggie Bush is the X-factor for the Saints beating the Falcons. He wasn't able to play in the first matchup of the season and the offense becomes more dynamic when No. 25 is on the field.

What we're saying:Bush has done his share of damage to the Falcons in his time in the NFL. Last season in Week 14 he rushed for 33 yards and added 46 and two touchdowns as a receiver.

The Falcons know they have to stop Bush and some of their woes in the passing game could be their Achilles' heel in doing so. They'll point to what the Ravens did in limiting Bush to -4 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving. They also kept him out of the end zone on offense and on special teams.

The special teams Reggie Bush is the one they'll talk about the most. They know they have to keep him from hurting them as punt and kick returners have done earlier this season. Atlanta will point to veteran additions to special teams like Erik Coleman and Kroy Biermann and the standout play of Chris Owens and Eric Weems as steadying influences in recent weeks.

They know they can hold down dangerous return men. For proof look no further than last week when they limited Seattle's Leon Washington, he of the three touchdown returns this season, to 20 yards on six returns.

The Falcons will say winning the field-position battle is critical and that starts and ends with Bush.

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