Early Week 15 Preview: 49ers at Falcons

The San Francisco 49ers (1-12) go on the road in Week 15 to play a team in the thick of a divisional battle. The Atlanta Falcons (8-5) are currently tied for first place in the NFC South along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Matt Ryan is in his ninth season as the Falcons franchise quarterback. The former No. 3 overall pick in 2008 continues to lead one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Ryan is joined by stud wide receiver Julio Jones and a host of other playmakers.

Here's a closer look at Sunday's matchup.

View images of the key players on San Francisco's next regular season opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.

All-time Record: 46-29-1 (1-1 in the postseason)

The 49ers will go for their fourth straight win against Atlanta. San Francisco's current winning streak includes the 2012 NFC Championship Game, the "Pick at the Stick" and a narrow home victory in 2015.

Previous Matchup: 49ers 17 – 16 Falcons (Nov. 8, 2015 in San Francisco)

Garrett Celek scored two touchdowns in last year's meeting. San Francisco's defense was able to limit Falcons running back Devonta Freeman to just 12 yards on 12 carries and allowed Atlanta to reach the end zone on just one occasion. Dontae Johnson's pass breakup against Jones in the end zone served as a marquee play late in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons Best Player: Jones

There just aren't many built like Jones. At 6-foot-4 with blazing speed, specimen is the best adjective to describe Atlanta's top playmaker. Jones has seven 100-yard performances in 2016, and he leads the NFL with 1,253 receiving yards. The wideout missed last week's game against the Los Angeles Rams with a toe injury and is likely to be questionable going into Sunday's contest.

Who You Should Get to Know: Vic Beasley

The Rams offensive line is probably still having nightmares about Beasley. The second-year pass-rusher posted three sacks returned his own forced fumble for a touchdown last week in Los Angeles. With a league-leading 13.5 sacks on the year, Beasley has already more than tripled his rookie season total (4.0). The eighth overall pick in 2015 has four games now with multiple sacks. 

Where They Excel: Scoring Points

No team has done it better in 2016 as Atlanta is averaging 32.9 points per game. The Falcons put up 42 points in Week 14 even without Jones in the lineup. Freeman, No. 2 running back Tevin Coleman, No. 2 wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and speedster Taylor Gabriel have also played huge roles in Atlanta's success offensively. Coleman has nine total touchdowns in 2016 despite missing three games due to injury. Gabriel has four scores in as many games and is averaging 17.38 yards per reception this season.

Where They Struggle: Pass Defense

Atlanta has sorely missed their top cornerback, Desmond Trufant, who is on Injured Reserve with a pectoral injury. The Falcons secondary is allowing north of 275 yards per game through the air – the most in the NFL. And the damage hasn't been done solely by receivers. Two weeks ago, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 140 yards against the Falcons. The game before that, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson to topped 100 yards receiving.

Sunday could be a perfect opportunity for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense to get back on track.

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