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What's Eating Michael Turner?

Conjecture time!

The Falcons have leaned heavily on Michael Turner again in 2011. He's going to finish with 300 carries again this season, and his 1,129/4.1/9 slash line looks pretty good. While they've tried to transition to an offense built more around the passing game, the Falcons still clearly view Touchdown Vampire as a big part of what they do.

Yet Turner's showing some signs of fading down the stretch, a worrying trend given the importance of the last two games of the season for the Falcons. While he's always mixed in superb games with poor ones, Turner has averaged no more than 3.2 yards per carry the last four weeks running.

There's been a lot going on in the background here. Turner has been hurt, dealing with the same nagging groin injuries that have bitten into his production at times the last couple of seasons. The offensive line continues to struggle with blocking for stretches of the game, which limits his effectiveness. And at 29 years old, Burner is no spring chicken. Even if he'd kill me for saying so.

There's no obvious solution here. If the Falcons beat the Saints, they might be able to afford to rest Turner for the playoffs and roll with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. But if they don't win that game, Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey are unlikely to feel good about letting Turner take a nap on the bench in a must-win. It's also not like the offensive line is going to magically open up gigantic holes for the big guy on every run.

Hopefully the eleven day layoff will be good news for the entire team, including Turner. If they can possibly rest him against the Buccaneers, I say the team pulls the trigger and lets Rodgers and Big Snell do what they do.

Weigh in. What's eating Turner, and what's to be done about it?