Matchups to Watch: Bolts vs. Falcons

There are only six unbeaten teams left standing; two of them will collide on Sunday as the San Diego Chargers host the Atlanta Falcons, who are already 2-0 against the AFC West. To give an inside look at this inter-conference tilt, we serve up and break down three pivotal matchups.

RT Jeromey Clary vs. LDE Ray Edwards

Many will focus on the other end of the line, where undrafted rookie Mike Harris is pitted against veteran John Abraham (113 career sacks, 23.5 since 2010). But the matchup between Clary and Edwards is just as important. Edwards had just 3.5 sacks last season in his first go-round with the Falcons, but he posted eight or more sacks in 2009 and 2010.

Edwards is the kind of speed rusher that has historically given Clary fits. The Chargers will not be able to give Clary much help, either, as that will be deployed to Harris' side in most obvious passing situations. Clary has been credited with 2.5 sacks allowed already this season (according to stats.com) and will need to step up his game against Edwards.

CB Quentin Jammer vs. WR Roddy White


CB Quentin Jammer
Brace Hemmelgarn/U.S. Presswire
White is one of the most productive receivers in the league. He averaged 100 receptions from 2009-2011 and is off to a fast start again this season, including last week's win over the Denver Broncos when he caught eight balls for 102 yards and a score. The Chargers counter with Jammer, a defender whose middling statistics (18 career INTs in 10-plus seasons) do not do justice to his ability as a cover corner.

Jammer is a physical defender and will try to disrupt White at the line of scrimmage. Another of Jammer's strong suits -- his ability to anticipate receivers' routes -- will come in handy against White's crisp patterns. Jammer will not shut down White, but if he can keep him in check it will allow coordinator John Pagano to give safety help to Antoine Cason on the other side as he contends with home-run threat Julio Jones.

TE Antonio Gates vs. LB Sean Weatherspoon

Gates is the ultimate competitor and he has a lot to prove on Sunday. He wants to shine on the same field as Tony Gonzalez, a player Gates has spent his entire career chasing in the record books. Gates also wants to perform well one week after his fill-in, Dante Rosario, caught three TDs in a blowout win against the Tennessee Titans; Gates has not scored three times in a game since 2005, when he was competing against Gonzalez's Kansas City Chiefs.

The Falcons will use multiple defenders against Gates, including standout safeties William Moore and Thomas Decoud. But Weatherspoon will spend most of the game lined up over Gates and will try to get physical with the Pro Bowl tight end, especially since Gates is still on the mend from a rib injury. This is a great contrast in styles -- the speedy Weatherspoon against the smooth Gates -- and one that could decide the outcome of Sunday's battle of the unbeatens.



How will the AFC West play out in Week 3? Talk about it inside the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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