NFL Week 3 Picks: Falcons over Chargers

Jake WestrichSenior Writer ISeptember 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to throw the ball against outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos during a game at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


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Game of the Week: Falcons at Chargers

A mere two weeks of NFL action are in the books, yet only six teams harbor hope of running the table for an undefeated campaign. A tussle between two of these unconquered crews will ensue in San Diego, as the Chargers host the Atlanta Falcons in our Game of the Week.

Regardless of the overabundance of overreaction the league facilitates, one would surmise that even the most fervent of fanbases would reserve themselves from hyperactivity in regards to a 2-0 start. Yet given the Lightning Bolts' struggles in September the past five seasons, the significance of a strong start cannot be overstressed, as this marks the franchise's first unblemished two-week mark since 2006.

Scoring 60 points in their first two contests, the catalyst for the Chargers offense lies with San Diego signal caller Philip Rivers. Rivers, who has averaged over 4,500 yards in the air the past three seasons, was envisioned by some pigskin pundits to take a step back in 2012, as the departure of primary target Vincent Jackson and ailments to running back Ryan Mathews and perennial Pro Bowler Antonio Gates clouded the quarterback's forecast.

Despite working with an inexperienced backfield and unfamiliar receivers, the N.C. State product has not shown signs of regression in the early going, tossing for 515 yards and four touchdowns. With Mathews and Gates set to return for Week 3, the offense could be scratching the surface of its potential.

Of course, the best offense is a stout defense, a sentiment that certainly applies to the San Diego resistance, holding adversaries to 12 points per game. Bolstered by a solid secondary, the Chargers have suffocated the opposition to a meager 266.5 yards per contest, third-best in the NFL. Given the stumbles from the other AFC West teams, the dexterity on both sides of the ball makes the Chargers the early favorite for the division crown.

The same outlook is apropos for Atlanta, as the offensive and defensive units seem to be firing on all cylinders. The Falcons have forced a league-high seven turnovers, with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's aggressive attack wreaking havoc. That this controlled chaos has flourished without Curtis Lofton, who left for New Orleans, and Brent Grimes, sidelined for the season with a torn Achilles, is that much more impressive.

"Impressive" is a word that has been utilized more than once to describe Atlanta's new up-tempo offense, as fifth-year quarterback Matt Ryan seems in total control of his environment. Blessed with one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL, Ryan has racked up six scores (five passing, one rushing) and led the Falcons to 67 points, second-best in the conference. If Matty Ice can continue this command, the Dirty Birds will be a tough out in 2012.

Not that all is well in the Georgia Dome, as the ground game has been stagnant through the first two weeks. Worse, running back Michael Turner, whose trepidation and lack of burst have been attributed for this sluggishness, was arrested on Monday night. For now, Turner is set to start on Sunday, but the horizon is not bright for Turner's season prospects.

So who wins this clash of Super Bowl aspirants? According to the award-winning simulation engine, the Falcons come out on top 59.9 percent of the time by an average margin of 25-21. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below: