This game just feels odd to me. Here come the Steelers, fresh off an absolute curb stomping of the Chiefs, and here come the Falcons, fresh off a...well, let's not talk about it.
This is a Steelers team that's finally starting to hit its stride, but their glaring weakness is still Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown 7 interceptions versus only 2 touchdowns. He's also been planted like a tulip 11 times already. Clearly, Roethlisberger is going to have a hard time winning this game by himself, and his offensive line is not performing up to its usual lofty standards. The point? Everyone already knows what we can do against the run when Tiki Barber isn't the starting halfback for the other team, so the key for the Falcon's defense is going to be how much pressure they get on Big Ben. A couple sacks, an interception or two, and a few hurried throws will make a huge difference in this game. On the flip side, Coleman and Abraham are questionable, and Kerney is probable. If any one of those three don't play (God forbid more than one), it's going to be that much harder to apply the pressure. Look for the Falcons to go blitz heavy regardless of their personnel and try to force Roethlisberger into some dumb throws.
On the flip side, I can't help but be nervous about the Falcons' offense. The Steelers have a very solid defense; their 78.4 yards allowed per game on the ground tells me that Dunn and Norwood are probably going to have a little difficulty finding some daylight. This brings us to Vick, who is probably going to be forced to execute with his arm and not his legs. If the Falcons can get the ground game going early on, I'll retract that last statement, but I see both teams having some difficulty in that vein. Unfortunately, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White are going to have to be prominently involved in the game plan if Vick has to throw. This is primarily what makes me nervous. After watching Jenkins drop that beautiful bomb in the end zone against the Giants last week, I have dubbed him "Oven Mitts", because "Cement Blocks for Hands" sounded too awkward. White's more defensible, but he tipped two catchable balls behind him, and everyone saw how that turned out. What Vick really needs to do is look for Lelie on the deep routes and Crumpler on the short routes, because it's understandably rather difficult for him to trust either Oven Mitts or White. Lelie offers explosive deep speed and Crumpler offers an uncanny ability to rope in all the errant bullets Vick manages to fire all over the field. If Oven Mitts and White can avoid some costly drops this week, even better.
So who's the key to the whole game? Probably Vick. The defense is going to buckle down and give the Steelers a hard time, and the Steelers offense still isn't operating at full capacity. The Falcons must take advantage and strike early, and it's on Vick's infuriatingly erratic arm to make sure that happens. Vick's throwing ability is a post of its own, so let me break it down into my reasonably confident prediction: if he has a no TD, 100 yard, 50% completion day Sunday, we ain't gonna win it.
Prediction: Falcons win a close one.
(Little note here. You will never see me predict a game's outcome as something like Falcons 24, Steelers 17, because I don't believe in looking like a moron. My chances of getting a prediction even close to correct that way is probably nil. I prefer the 50/50 code of prediction, and I may eventually phase it out altogether. I'm eager to hear what you guys think, though.