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Falcons Gab NFL Week 13 Preview – Atlanta at Houston


Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan aims for their sixth win in row against AFC foes. In his past five matchups versus the AFC, he has completed 108-of-167 passes (64.7 percent) for 1,393 yards, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 107.7 rating and aims for a fifth straight game against the AFC with a 100-plus rating. Last week, he completed 27-of-34 throws (79.4 percent) for 262 yards with three touchdowns and a 128.2 rating. The Falcons are 20-0 when Ryan has a 100-plus rating over his career, and he’s won eight of his past nine December starts. Since joining Atlanta in 2008, running back Michael Turner has 47 rushing touchdowns, the second-most in the NFL. When he has 23-plus rushes as a professional, Turner’s teams are 21-1 (.955). In his past seven outings versus AFC teams, wide receiver Roddy White has 60 catches for 913 yards (130.4 per game) and seven touchdowns. He has surpassed 100 yards in six of those seven games. White also has 435 receptions since 2007, most in the NFC. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has 59 receptions on the year and needs one for an NFL-record 13th consecutive season with 60 or more.

On defense, the Texans allow an NFL-low 268.4 yards per game and with 35 sacks, they need three to surpass the franchise record of 37 from 2005. Rookie linebacker Brooks Reed, a second-round pick in last April’s draft, aims for a sixth consecutive game with a sack, while opposite-side starter Connor Barwin had a career-best four sacks last week. Rookie end J.J. Watt, Houston’s first- round selection in this past draft, had a career-high two sacks against Jacksonville. Second-year cornerback Kareem Jackson, a first-round choice in 2010, has 29 tackles and two forced fumbles on the year.

Statistically speaking, the Falcons on offense are 12th in scoring (23.5 ppg), 13th in total yards (365.9 ypg), 11th in passing (248.2 ypg) and 14th in rushing (117.7 ypg). Houston’s defense is second in points allowed (16.3 ppg), tops in fewest yards allowed (268.4 ypg), second against the pass (175.8 ypg) and fourth in rushing defense (92.5 ypg).


The rookie Yates, the 152nd overall pick in April’s draft, will make his first NFL start and is a native of Marietta, Ga. Houston is tied with Oakland for an AFC-best 14 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and is the only team in the NFL with two running backs with at least 700 yards on the ground in Arian Foster (805) and Ben Tate (712). Since 2010, Foster is tied with Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson with an NFL-best 23 rushing touchdowns and aims for a sixth consecutive game with at least one rushing score. Wide receiver Andre Johnson recorded his 700th career catch last week in his 120th game, making him the second-fastest to reach that milestone in NFL history. Only Marvin Harrison (114) did so in fewer games.

On the Atlanta defense, end John Abraham had a sack in these teams’ last meeting back in 2007 and has 106 1/2 career sacks, second-most among active players. Cornerback Dunta Robinson was a first-round pick (No. 10 overall) by Houston in 2004 and played six seasons with the Texans from 2004-09 in which he recorded 13 interceptions. End Ray Edwards had a sack in his only career game against Houston, which came in 2008 while with Minnesota. Second-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a first-round pick in 2010, has 89 tackles and three sacks on the season.

By the numbers, the Houston offense is fifth in scoring (26.6 ppg), eighth in total yards (379.7 ypg), 16th in passing (228.0 ypg) and third in rushing (151.7 ypg). On defense, the Falcons are 13th in points allowed (20.6 ppg), ninth in total yards allowed (329.2 ypg), 23rd against the pass (245.7 ypg) and second against the run (83.5 ypg).


With a third-string rookie starting at quarterback, the Texans will clearly rely on horses Foster and Tate — though that approach might play directly into the hands of a run-stuffing Falcons defense. Yates will have to make some plays to prevent Houston from being one-dimensional on offense.

Given a full week to prepare, it’ll be interesting to see Yates’ level of composure and the benefits he derives from working with the No. 1 offense after being named the starter.

On the Atlanta side, several members of the defense spent the week away from practice with nagging injuries. The Falcons will need all hands on deck to handle a prolific Texans group, even with an inexperienced quarterback.

Prediction – Part of the reason Foster and Tate were so good to begin the season was the presence of Schaub and the threat of air success. With Leinart and now with a third-stringer, the Texans can expect foes to load the box and dare Yates to win games for them. While it might happen against lower-tier opponents like Jacksonville and Indianapolis, it’s harder to imagine the fifth-rounder handling the Falcons in his debut. Falcons 27 Texans 14

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