NFL week seven: Matt Ryan keeps Atlanta Falcons flying high

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San Diego Chargers beat Denver Broncos to calm Mike McCoy's nerves

We get a chance to cover a team that has had made a huge leap forward this season when NFL returns to BBC Radio 5 live sports extra for week seven of the season, on Sunday 23 October at 19:30 BST.

The Atlanta Falcons, winners of four of their opening six games, host the San Diego Chargers (2-3) at the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta are an intriguing story - they have been the most potent offense in the NFL with quarterback Matt Ryan playing arguably the best football of his career. A lot of that is down to the system that offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan has put in place.

Head coach Dan Quinn was hired last season and immediately hired the son of former Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan to re-vamp a faltering unit.

It has taken some time to bed in, as in their first season the Falcons were ranked 22nd in the league and Ryan threw 21 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions. They started brightly enough at 6-1 but ended the season 8-8.

Julio Jones
Julio Jones has scored four touchdowns for the Atlanta Falcons this season

In the six games so far, Ryan is averaging 346 yards a game, with 15 TDs and three picks. It would be easy for him to continually target Julio Jones, his physical speedy all-pro wide receiver, but in spreading the ball out to a strong supporting cast of wide-out Mohamed Sanu, tight-ends Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper and running back Tevin Coleman, it means defences have to spread themselves out more thinly, creating the match-ups Ryan wants.

Having said that, the Ryan/Jones combo lit up the Carolina Panthers in week four for 500 and 300 yards respectively (an NFL record). If Jones has single coverage, then Ryan will send it his way.

The Falcons have become more solid on defence, not outstanding but have improved over the last fortnight. They've come away 1-1 in tough trips against Denver and Seattle. The Seahawks game last week tells you a lot about the Falcons of 2016. At 17-3 down at halftime in a raucous, oppressive environment, the 2015 version would have collapsed. They came back and took the lead before an attempt at running out the clock for the win was ended by a rare Ryan interception.

As for the Chargers, they have behaved, well, like the Chargers this season. There's a lot to like about them but they have lost four games when they have held a lead deep into the second half. Nothing new there. But watch out for the electric Joey Bosa.

Bosa who missed five games due to injury and contract issues after being drafted third overall in May, has shown in two games what the bolts have been missing on the defensive line. He'll be a nuisance, so expect to see Ryan release the ball quickly, establish the run early, and subsequently use plenty of play-action and roll-outs.

NFL comes to London's Twickenham Stadium

Tavon Austin (right) feels the cold as the LA Rams train in London ahead of their game against the New York Giants at Twickenham on Sunday
Tavon Austin (right) feels the cold as the LA Rams train in London ahead of their game against the New York Giants at Twickenham on Sunday

For the first time Twickenham will host the NFL this week as the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants come to London.

Both are 3-3 and I will be excited to see how the Rams' dominant defence deal with Odell Beckham Jr, who had a career day last week against Baltimore after a slow start.

A new venue for NFL in the UK, and I think players and supporters alike will love it.

There are two other stand-out games. The only unbeaten team in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings, visit Philadelphia and will be fresh from a bye week, while the Eagles have come down to earth with a bump after starting 3-0 with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

That will be the feature match on 5 live NFL from the early fixtures.

Then Tom Brady and his 5-1 Patriots travel to face the 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers but without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who could be sidelined for up to six weeks with a knee injury.

Backup Landry Jones has more than enough talent to keep it close but it's key that Le'veon Bell and Antonio Brown make plays.

Keep an eye on Jesse James the second year tight end. At 6ft 7ins he will provide a useful outlet for Jones.

5 live NFL features full commentary of the San Diego Chargers at the Atlanta Falcons, including action from the early games from 19:30 BST on Sunday on 5 live sports extra.

Plus don't miss live coverage of the LA Rams v New York Giants at Twickenham on BBC2, 14:00, Sunday.

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