1. QB Matt Ryan vs Coaches Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith
People need to realize this is a legitimate matchup. Koetter coached Matt Ryan for three seasons before departing to Tampa Bay to become the offensive coordinator, which then turned into a head coaching job. Mike Smith on the other hand coached Ryan for seven seasons, as he was the head coach in Atlanta from 2008-2014. So why is this a matchup? Because Koetter and Smith know Ryan’s tendencies, and they will tell their defense what Ryan likes to do in certain situations. Ryan and Kyle Shanahan must counter this and find ways to change up some of the play-calling.
2. C Alex Mack vs DT Gerald McCoy
This is a matchup in the trenches that will get nasty. Atlanta brought in Mack to help solidify their offensive line, and Mack has been a top five center in the league for the past couple of seasons. He will go up against one of the most underrated players in the game in Gerald McCoy, a four-time Pro Bowler. Offensive Guards Chris Chester and Andy Levitre will also have their hands full with him, but Mack vs McCoy should be a hell of a matchup to watch.
3. CB Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford vs WR Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson
Desmond Trufant will face the 6’5” Mike Evans, who is one of the better wide receivers in the NFL. Evans did not have his best year last season, but still averaged over 16 yards per reception. Trufant is one of the better cornerbacks in the league, and he knows he will have to keep everything under him and not let Evans find a way behind him.
Robert Alford will also face a taller receiver in Vincent Jackson (6’5”). Jackson is a 12-year veteran who can still make a big impact on any game. He has been held back from injuries in the past couple of years, but he seems healthy now. Alford, just like Trufant, will have to keep everything in front of him. Look for Trufant or Alford to make an interception this game.
4. LB Deion Jones vs RB Doug Martin
Deion Jones will be the starting middle linebacker on Sunday, and he will have to be on top of his game in order for the defense to play their best. He will have to deal with Bucs running back Doug Martin, who rushed for over 1400 yards last season. Jones has the speed to hold up in the NFL, but does he have the strength to make the tackles? We’ll get to see that come Sunday.