Having won back-to-back games for the first time this season, rejuvenated Atlanta takes the field Sunday looking for its first road victory over the Colts, the NFL's only 0-8 team. Although the Falcons (4-3) have already matched the number of losses they had all of last season, when they finished with the NFC's best record, the team feels like it's heading in the right direction. Atlanta, a half-game behind NFC South-leading New Orleans, put together two of its best defensive performances leading up to its bye. After allowing an average of 26.0 points and 383.4 yards in its first five games, Atlanta gave up an average of 315.5 yards in a 31-17 victory over Carolina in Week 6 and a 23-16 win over Detroit on Oct. 23.
Despite their past struggles in this series, the Falcons would seem to have a good chance to keep rolling against an Indianapolis team in the midst of its worst losing streak since starting 0-10 in 1997. Atlanta has lost three straight to the Colts since a 28-21 home win in 1998 - Peyton Manning's rookie season - its lone victory in 14 meetings. The Falcons have lost three times in Indianapolis and three in Baltimore. Matt Ryan took over in 2008 and has started all but two games since, but for a few moments against the Lions it looked like he might be out for a while. Ryan's left foot and knee were twisted when left tackle Will Svitek stepped on his foot, but he seemed to dodge a potentially severe injury and missed only a few plays.
The Colts are 31st in total defense (402.9 yards per game), 32nd in scoring defense (31.5 points per game) and tied for 30th with 12 sacks. Indianapolis is 31st against the run (144.0 ypg), which doesn't bode well for trying to slow down Michael Turner, who rushed for 122 yards against Detroit - his fourth 100-yard game of the season. The Falcons may get rookie receiver Julio Jones back. The sixth overall pick missed the team's last two games with a hamstring injury before returning earlier this week, though his participation was limited Wednesday. Indianapolis' problems, meanwhile, are hardly exclusive to the defensive side.
The Colts are 30th in total offense (294.9 ypg) and 30th in scoring (15.1 per game). Curtis Painter is averaging 168.3 passing yards with a touchdown and four interceptions in his last three games - he was picked twice in last Sunday's 27-10 loss at Tennessee - and running back Joseph Addai has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Indianapolis has already matched the number of defeats it had in its previous two seasons combined, and its record-tying streak of nine straight playoff appearances is essentially over. Same with the outcome of this game sometime into the fourth quarter as the dirty birds fly high by double digits.