The Atlanta Falcons will face off against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, October 14, 2012. The Falcons will be looking to stay unbeaten with their bye week looming. The Raiders are struggling and will arrive with a 1-3 record, but don't let the record fool you.
Oakland has had two weeks to get healthy and scheme.The Falcons learned from the Carolina Panthers' near loss that teams can surprise you with a little extra planning.
Here is a look at six keys for a Falcons win.
Mike Smith has been the coach that owner Arthur Blank has always searched for. He has the respected authority of former coach Dan Reeves, and the ability to fire up the team like former coach Jim Mora. The Atlanta Falcons will need Smith to be vocal this week in order to stay focused.
Luckily, when Smith talks, the team listens.
Quarterback Matt Ryan will need to use his eyes for more than finding the open receiver this Sunday. Ryan is not so much a game manager as he is a field general. His ability to read defenses has been a huge part of the Falcons' success.
Ryan will, pardon the pun, have to keep his eye out for new wrinkles in the Raiders' schemes. Whatever the Raiders have been doing this season has not been working, so they will have to try something new.
Falcons OLB Sean Weatherspoon has had his butt all over the field this year. Spoon, as fans call him, has become even more versatile under DC Mike Nolan's tutelage. He has shown the speed to catch up to anyone and the will to lay the wood when he gets there. (See the photo above where said butt delivered a knock out blow to RGIII.)
The one thing the Raiders have is team speed. Weatherspoon will need to make his presence felt on both sides of the line to make sure small gains do not become explosive plays.
Wide receiver Julio Jones may be the most versatile player on the Atlanta Falcons offense. From lining up in the slot to running reverses, Falcons OC Dirk Koetter has Jones all over the field. Jones is usually reliable, but had several drops in the game against the Redskins. How much the injury to his right hand contributed to those drops is unknown.
Jones will need to make sure he keeps his hands on the ball to make the most of his chances.
Dunta Robinson is starting to show up on highlight films this year. Not only has he defended the ball better, but Robinson has been hitting opponents as hard as any cornerback in the league.
But he will need to make sure he is using his arms to wrap up rather than just hitting with his shoulder. This will be especially true if RB Darren McFadden makes it to the second level.
Michael Turner's role has been greatly reduced in the Atlanta Falcons' new offensive scheme. While the Falcons are now a pass-first team, the run still plays a vital role. If they build a lead, Turner will have to keep his feet churning for positive yards. If Turner is repeatedly stopped at the line, it could create too many three-and-outs. The Falcons will need him to help keep the ball out of Carson Palmer's hands in the second half.