The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Running It Up


While rookie Matt Ryan gets the headlines as the new golden boy in Atlanta, the reason why the Falcons are one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs is Michael Turner. LaDainian Tomlinson's understudy for five years in San Diego has become one of the top three running backs in the league and has taken loads of pressure off Ryan as he learns NFL defenses.

Turner is also the reason why Atlanta will beat Arizona on Saturday.
The Falcons' offense used to revolve around Michael Vick, who was a less-than-average passer and an above average runner. Now Atlanta has a skilled passer in Ryan and a much better runner in Turner, who amassed 208 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons' 31-27 victory over St. Louis in the regular season finale.

Arizona should be ready for a healthy dose of Turner this weekend, but it may not matter much even if the Cardinals are prepared. They have had great difficulty stopping the run, and that doesn't bode well for the playoffs against the Falcons' No. 2 rushing offense.
Consider some of the teams Arizona has lost to in the second half of the season: Carolina, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and New England. All are strong running teams, except for the Eagles, who instead have one of the best running backs in the league in Brian Westbrook.

Arizona's passing attack, while potent, is virtually its only resource on offense. The Cardinals' running game is ranked last in the league. Edgerrin James is a shell of the player who won consecutive rushing titles with Indianapolis, and rookie Tim Hightower has slowed dramatically over the past five games.

That means Arizona has one dimension on offense, and its lack of balance makes the job that much easier for the Falcons defense. If Atlanta can pressure Kurt Warner consistently, this game shouldn't even be close.

By Gene Wang  |  December 29, 2008; 7:42 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinasl , Atlanta Falcons Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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