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Falcons vs. Cardinals: Three things to watch

Pass rush on both sides, and Michael Turner are things to watch

Scott Cunningham

Mike Smith was quick to act when his Falcons lost their first game of the season, rapidly cutting under-performing defensive end Ray Edwards, and setting about to get his team on the right track. This week Atlanta face the over-performing Arizona Cardinals. These are the three things they need to watch for on Sunday.

1. Brace for the storm

In a remarkably quick turnaround the Cardinals boast the league's most threatening, and varied pass rush. With 27 sacks in nine games, Arizona are able to bring pressure from many different positions. Ten players have sacks, and it's this ability to give teams different looks that has lead to their defense being so effective.

This season Atlanta have done very well protecting Matt Ryan, but this week is where they'll really be tested. The Falcons excel at seeing standard pass rushes, and countering them; however, when they see strange looks the can get caught off guard. Keeping the pass rush at bay is vital for their success.

2. Tee off

As good as the Cardinals are at getting to opposing QBs, they're worse at protecting their own. Allowing a stunning 41 sacks on the season, it's clear why both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton has struggled with injury.

John Abraham has looked as good as ever this season, using a power rush that emphasizes only a couple of moves, he's on pace for another 10 sack season in a year where many thought he'd decline. This is the time for Abraham and company to turn on the jets, get to the QB, and disrupt their passing game.

3. Don't be afraid to use Michael Turner

This season Turner has been hot-and-cold, which some predicted would be the RB's downfall. Yes, he's not as good as he has been, and this could be the begin of his decline-- however, now is not the week to sky away from the run game due to fear.

While the Arizona defense is good, they do struggle against the run. The Cardinals allow 4.2 yards per carry, one of the worst averages in the league. If the offense can stay balanced, and rely a little on Turner it will pay huge dividends.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.