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Week 2: Rams-Falcons matchup analysis

The SportsXchange

St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Georgia Dome, Atlanta - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

*Keys to the game: The Falcons have to be concerned with the amount of duress QB Matt Ryan was put under in Week 1 by a Saints defense still adjusting to its new 3-4 scheme. The Rams tied for the league lead with 52 sacks last season and likely won't need to send many blitzes to get to Ryan in passing situations. The burden is on RB Steven Jackson and the ground game to produce positive yardage on early downs and help set up more play-action. The former Ram had only 11 carries last week and, other than one big gain, had 27 yards on 10 carries. He needs to be more involved in the gameplan from the outset. St. Louis upgraded its offensive line over the offseason, and QB Sam Bradford was rarely touched last week. Still, the Rams lack a formidable presence in the ground game, leaving St. Louis in far too many third-and-long situations. New Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora didn't record a sack in the opener but was around Saints QB Drew Brees often. If the Falcons aren't able to pressure Bradford, the Rams have plenty of deep speed with which to test the Falcons' secondary.

*Matchup to watch - Rams TE Jared Cook vs. Falcons FS Thomas DeCoud: Cook is getting an opportunity to be a playmaker for the Rams, and he's taking advantage of one-on-one mismatches with the Rams featuring deep speed defenses must respect. DeCoud will be in the mix in attempting to contain Cook (seven catches for 141 yards in Week 1) along with the Falcons' linebacking corps in some double-team situations.

*Player spotlight - Falcons RT Lamar Holmes: Atlanta let go of road-grader Tyson Clabo, and Holmes won the starting job. He'll be making just his second career start while battling Rams Pro Bowl DE Chris Long.

*Fast facts: Bradford hasn't been sacked in three consecutive games, the Rams' longest such streak since 1973. ... Jackson is the Rams' all-time leading rusher with 10,138 yards.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Falcons have serious offensive line issues, and the Rams bring one of the league's top pass rushes to Atlanta. But the Falcons have the ability to run the ball well enough to help QB Matt Ryan, and St. Louis is too one-dimensional offensively to beat elite teams on the road.

*Our pick: Falcons 27-20
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