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When healthy, Darren McFadden is one of the most explosive backs in the game. Can the game-busting back out of Arkansas take advantage of a Falcons defense that has been noticeably weak against the run?
Despite the undefeated Falcons being given a comfortable margin in the Vegas spread, the Raiders will enter the Georgia Dome on Sunday healthier than they've been all season.
The men in black and silver have had two weeks to prepare for 5-0 Atlanta. While Oakland (1-3) has endured a disappointing start to the season, their lone win against the Steelers indicates that this team is far from untalented.
Among that list of top-tier athletes on the Oakland squad is running back Darren McFadden, who is without a doubt the biggest factor in this ball game.
McFadden's monster day against Pittsburgh - 18 carries for 113 yards rushing - was instrumental in the team's lone win of the season. In each of the season's three losses, he failed to reach the 35-yard mark on the ground.
We must consider, of course, that two of those teams (Miami and San Diego) have top-five rushing defenses. The Falcons are currently allowing 142.8 rushing yards per game, sixth-worst in the NFL. Last week's narrow win over the Washington Redskins featured rookie Alfred Morris taking 18 carries for 115 yards on the ground.
In weeks past, this huge rushing totals have been of little concern to the Falcons, whose electric offense has forced teams to pass after jumping out to huge leads. In fact, Matt Ryan and company have been unstoppable... if you exclude last week in Washington.
Yes, the same secondary with "interception-or-bust" DeAngelo Hall and the struggling Josh Wilson. The same front seven that has lost top pass rushers Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker to season-ending injuries. The same defense that has allowed 328.6 passing yards per game through five weeks.
This mighty defense stepped up their game and held the Falcons to seven first half points, and left fans checking their blood pressures numerous times.
Also consider Akeem Dent's struggles as a first-year starter and the possibility that stalwart Stephen Nicholas could miss this week's game with an ankle injury, and suddenly McFadden's prospects of having a big game look all too real.
At this point in the season, I don't think we'll see any immediate improvements on that front. Mike Nolan is committed to stopping the pass and merely containing the run.
The real key to stopping McFadden, then? The offense. If Ryan is kept upright and the receivers can stay explosive, they will put up the kind of offensive production we saw in weeks one through four.
With a Falcons lead, McFadden becomes an afterthought, and the Raiders offense one-dimensional.