Chargers And Falcons In Battle Of Undefeated Teams
By: Michael Robinson
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The NFL is down to just six undefeated teams on the young season, but two of them will meet in San Diego when the Chargers host the Atlanta Falcons.
San Diego is 3-point favorites on the Don Best Pro Odds screen with a total of 47½. The latter is down from the 49 opening and FOX will have this marquee matchup from Qualcomm Stadium at 4:05 p.m. (ET).
The Chargers (2-0 straight up and against the spread) have historically started slow under coach Norv Turner. In fact, this is the first time they’ve been 2-0 in his six years at the helm. The team hasn’t started 3-0 since way back in 2002.
Turner was lucky to even have his job to begin this season after missing the playoffs the last two years despite plenty of talent. An easy schedule has helped this year with wins at the dysfunctional Raiders (22-14) and home versus woeful Tennessee (38-10).
The Titans game went ‘over’ the 43½-point total. The ‘under was 10-2 in San Diego’s previous 12 home games.
Quarterback Philip Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes against Tennessee (24-of-32) and threw for 284 yards and three TDS. He’s been throwing a lot of underneath routes as Malcom Floyd (175 total yards) is the only outside receiver he seems to trust. That’s because Vincent Brown (ankle) is on IR and there’s no chemistry yet with newly signed Robert Meachem.
Help could be on the way with tight end Antonio Gates (ribs) questionable after a late scratch last game. Even bigger news is the probable season debut for running back Ryan Mathews (collarbone). Mathews (1,091 rushing yards last year) is really needed with Mike Tolbert moving to Carolina in the offseason.
Atlanta (2-0 SU and ATS) had one of the biggest wins of last week, 27-21 as 3-point home favorites over Denver on Monday Night Football. The Falcons are out to prove they’re a different team than the one that folded in the playoffs the last two years, and beating Peyton Manning in front of the national audience was a great start.
Coach Mike Smith knows his team was a bit fortunate with Denver committing four turnovers in the first quarter, helping build a 20-0 lead in the second. That can’t be counted on against San Diego, which has one turnover in the two games.
Atlanta will continue to be aggressive offensively with new coordinator Dirk Koetter. He’s taken the reigns off quarterback Matt Ryan, who has great receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones,
plus the veteran presence of Tony Gonzalez at tight end. This is a huge step-up in offensive talent from San Diego’s first two opponents.
The negative is the running game has really struggled with Michael Turner (74 total yards, 2.6 per carry). He looks a step slower at age 30 and was also arrested for a DUI after the Denver game, although he’s listed as probable.
San Diego’s Rivers is also going to want to take more shots down the field this game. Atlanta already lost cornerback Brent Grimes (Achilles) for the year and now nickel back Chris Owens (concussion) is questionable. There is a Chargers protection issue with undrafted rookie Mike Harris starting at left tackle for Jared Gaither (back issue).
These teams have only met six times since 1988, with the latest in 2008 (22-16 Atlanta win). The ‘under’ has been a dominate theme at 6-0.