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Four Critical Matchups For The Falcons At The Superdome

Wesley Hitt

We've reached the first of two games between the Falcons and Saints this season. New Orleans is starting to build momentum, while Atlanta is looking to keep its record untarnished in 2012.

Kickoff is coming up, so let's get right to the major matchups for the Falcons in Week 10.

Matt Ryan vs. Saints secondary

Starting with the most obvious, the Falcons will once again rely on Ryan's arm to carry them to victory. The Saints have been downright awful against opposing passers this season, but they still managed to keep Michael Vick somewhat in check last week compared to prior performances. Of course the Eagles couldn't keep Vick upright. Still, Dirk Koetter needs to come out ready to attack right away. We saw blown coverage on DeSean Jackson's 77-yard touchdown, so we know that NOLA secondary we all love is still around.

Ryan threw for 342 yards against Dallas with no touchdowns. That's bound to change against a defense that gives up nearly 300 yards passing each week. Let No. 2 continue making his case for MVP.

Michael Turner vs. Curtis Lofton

Ah yes, we finally get the chance to watch the artist formerly known as The 5-0 around these parts. You know Lofton wants to show his old team up, and you know the Falcons want to counter his objective. Turner rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown last week, and given the fact that the Saints also somehow don't have a run defense either, he'll have a good chance at putting in another 100-yard outing here.

Pro Football Focus rates Lofton at -2.4 in run defense on the year, with nine missed tackles so far. How great would it be to see Turner throw a stiff-arm in the face of the his former teammate? He can be a dangerous factor in Week 10 as well.

John Abraham vs. Jermon Bushrod

Bushrod is by far the biggest liability on the offensive line this season. PFF gives him a -2.4 after allowing one sack, five hits and 24 hurries through eight games. Drew Brees is one of the best at moving up in the pocket, so Abe will have to lead the charge once again in the pass rush. He recorded just one hit and four hurries in two games against the Saints last season.

Charles Brown will also be starting for the injured Zach Strief at right tackle. Abe will see time on both sides, but Kroy Biermann should also have a chance to shine again.

Stephen Nicholas & Akeem Dent vs. Jimmy Graham

A healthy Graham is a scary thought. He hauled in eight receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. Last year he scored in both games against the Falcons. Spoon is still out, so Nicholas and Dent will both see time covering Graham.

Nicholas was targeted four times while covering Jason Witten in Week 9, giving up three catches for 25 yards. Dent received two targets while on Witten, yielding two catches for 17 yards. Robert McClain will face Graham in the slot at times, and Thomas DeCoud and William Moore of course will try to keep him contained over the top. It starts, though, with these two linebackers limiting the damage when they're in coverage.

What matchup are you watching for in Week 10?