Every week there’s a rush of information in the days leading up to gameday. 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 6 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:This matchup with the Eagles will be about two things: avenging the 34-7 home loss last season and the faceoff with former Falcons quarterback Mike Vick.
What we’re saying:There are some rivalries that are beginning to brew for the Falcons franchise and the Eagles are one of them. The two teams will be meeting for the fifth time in six seasons.
However, Atlanta doesn't seem to let its memories matter much. They lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs in 2008, but this season's Week 2 game against them was more about bouncing back from Week 1's tough loss to the Steelers and less about revenge.
There are very few players on the Falcons' roster that were around when Vick last played for the team in 2006. There will be a question mark around whether Vick will even play against the Falcons on Sunday as the quarterback makes his way back from a rib injury.
The Falcons will be more focused on preparing for two quarterbacks, as they did this past week against the Browns and the mobile Seneca Wallace and the more traditional Jake Delhomme. Atlanta will respect the dangerous game-changing abilities Vick can bring and they'll want to be prepared.
"Mike Vick is a very talented quarterback," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Monday. "If indeed he is going to be the quarterbac,k then we have to make sure that we have a game plan in place, especially in terms of our rush lanes because he is a guy similar to a couple of the quarterbacks that we’ve seen already this year that have the ability to run.”
What they will say:At 4-1, the Falcons are being considered the class of the NFC. They face an Eagles team that has long been discussed as one of the best in the conference. Atlanta will look to put the league on notice with a win. However, after four straight wins and three hard-fought wins in a row, Atlanta may be primed for a let down.
What we’re saying:If there's a team in the league that has shown they don't get inflated by their own success and ride the coattails of the previous week's win it's the Falcons.
The Falcons have also shown an ability to bounce back each week from a close loss, a blow-out win, an emotional victory and a closer-than-expected win.
In short, every game's the same and Smith illustrated the point in his comments at Monday's press conference.
“I think our guys are very businesslike and they have been from the very beginning," Smith said. "What we try to do, is we try to lay out a plan of how we’re going to attack things in a micro-setting and in a macro-setting. I think it’s very important that they understand that. I think they understand how we do things and the way we approach not only one game at a time, but they know how we approach the offseason. As we look back, I think our guys are pretty confident that they know what our convictions are as a coaching staff and what our convictions are as a football team.”
What they will say:With the return of injured wide receiver Michael Jenkins Atlanta's good offense will go to great and quarterback Matt Ryan will want to let the ball fly.
What we’re saying:Smith said on Monday Jenkins is cleared to play and will be available on Sunday and Atlanta will be able to do some new things with him in the lineup.
“I think when you get your No. 2 receiver back, we’ve been playing without him through the first five games, it’s going to give him an opportunity to make plays in terms of his contribution catching the football," Smith said. "Michael is also a very good blocker. I think it is going to allow Matt (Ryan) and our offense to distribute the ball a little bit differently. I think now when they try to take certain segments of our offense away we’re going to have more options. Michael has been chomping at the bit over the last three weeks."
While Jenkins will open up certain things, Ryan won't lobby offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to open things up. The quarterback's shown a patience within Atlanta's offense to let things develop and wait for the right moment to strike.
The addition of Jenkins will help against Philly's top-ten pass defense, but where it may help the most, as Smith mentioned, is in the running game. The wide receiver's blocking is exceptional and Atlanta's run game may benefit as much as Ryan's pass yards will.