Falcons vs. Cardinals Preview
By: Raynard Churchwell
This Sunday, a battle of the birds will take place as the Atlanta Falcons travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams have just one win on the season and look to build some confidence by obtaining a victory. For the Falcons, this game is a must-win as the NFC South division crown is starting to run away from them. On the other hand, the Cardinals look to play hard and show that even though they are rebuilding, it will still be a battle for everyone who suits up against them.
Tale of the Tape
Falcons – The Falcons have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league thus far. With the weapons they have on offense and young athletic players on defense, very few people saw a 1-4 record coming. However, last week the offense did show glimpses of what they are truly capable of executing on the field. Quarterback Matt Ryan lit it up through the air against Houston as he threw for 330 passing yards and three touchdowns. Ryan currently ranks third in the league with 1,655 passing yards and is tied for second in passing touchdowns with 11. On the contrary, his seven interceptions and the horrible fashion in which the team has lost games have placed a damper over his individual success. The Falcons also haven’t been able to establish any kind of run game this season. Running back Devonta Freeman is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry and a measly 187 total rushing yards this season. This type of inefficiency is causing Matt Ryan to be pressured more often, so he hasn’t had enough time to throw the ball accurately. The Falcons’ offensive line play will be key in the game as two of the four starters for the Cardinals’ secondary are rookies. Therefore, if Matt Ryan is given adequate time to throw the ball, wide receivers Julio Jones, Mohammad Sanu, and Calvin Ridley should be able to expose the inexperience of the Cardinals’ defenders.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons haven’t been pleasant to watch these past few weeks. They are currently coming off of an abysmal performance as Deshaun Watson and the Texans dropped 53 points on their heads. The Falcons’ defense currently ranks 23rd out of 32 teams, and fans are calling for Head Coach Dan Quinn to relinquish his defensive coordinator duties and his head coaching position. The Falcons’ pass defense has been the most problematic as they have let opposing quarterbacks have their way through the air in the past weeks. For example, Deshaun Watson went 426 yards and 5 touchdowns, and Jacoby Brissett went 310 yards and 2 touchdowns. If they do not correct this soon, rookie sensation Kyler Murray will make it a long day for the dirty birds this upcoming Sunday.
Cardinals – The Arizona Cardinals are currently going through a rebuilding phase; therefore, their 1-3-1 record doesn’t come as a surprise. Last week, they were able to earn their first win of the season in a close battle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Rookie Quarterback Kyler Murray was able to show why he was taken as the number one pick in this year’s draft. Murray’s 253 passing yards and 93 rushing yards displayed how dynamic of a talent he is and why many people compare his skill set to Michael Vick. Murray will be the X-factor for the Cardinals as he will have to make plays with his arms and legs due to the poor offensive line play. Another player to watch for on the Cardinals’ offense is “Mr. Reliable” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers to ever play the game as he currently ranks second in career catches with only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice ahead of him. At age 36, Fitzgerald is still a crafty receiver and seems to be open at all times.
As for the defense, the Cardinals have been one of the worst defenses all season. The Cardinals are currently ranked 29th in total defense and have looked completely outmatched at times. They also rank 30th in opposing quarterback passer rating and touchdown passes against. This spells big trouble for them as they will face Atlanta’s high-powered passing attack that features all-pro wide receiver Julio Jones.
Matchups to Watch – A key matchup to watch is the Falcons’ Wide Receivers vs. Cardinals’ defensive backs. With Cardinals’ all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson being suspended for the first six games and Robert Alford out with a leg injury, it will be on rookie Cornerback Byron Long to matchup against Falcons all-pro wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons also have depth at the position with Calvin Ridley and Mohammad Sanu. If the Cardinals have any chance of winning, they will have to find a way to slow these receivers down. If not, it could be a big day for the Falcons’ offense and could turn into pure embarrassment for the Cardinals.
Another key matchup will be Arizona Quarterback Kyler Murray vs. the Falcons’ linebackers. As stated earlier, Murray is a dynamic talent. He is a quarterback that can hurt you with either his arms or legs. Falcons’ middle linebacker Deion Jones will most likely be responsible for containing him from running outside of the pocket. Every Falcons’ linebacker possesses speed and physicality, so it will be harder for Murray to scramble and find open space.
Prediction – I believe that Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense will expose the inexperience of the Cardinals and be able to score plenty of points. I also feel like their defense will be able to game plan against the rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and make enough stops to win the game.
Score – Falcons 30, Cardinals 17