3 Favorable Matchups Arizona Cardinals Can Exploit vs. Falcons
By: Fletcher Battles
This week the Cardinals will face a reeling Falcons team that is not playing well. Once thought of to be a strong playoff contender, the Falcons now find themselves in the cellar of the NFL along with the Cardinals. The winner of this game will gain momentum and have a possible longshot for the playoffs while the loser of this game will most likely be sitting at home during the playoffs. The Cardinals need this win as the NFC West division is stacked this year. These are e favorable matchups the Cardinals need to exploit in order to win the game on Sunday.
1. OL Pass Protection vs. Falcons DL
I know, I know, our offensive line has been subpar at best this year for the Cardinals. Adding to that, Marcus Gilbert, the best of the bunch is out all year and Justin Pugh is already beat up. However, this week again, the Cardinals actually have a favorable matchup in the trenches here. The Falcons defense has been underwhelming and their problem is similar to the Cardinals in that their defensive line fails to generate pressure. In addition, the Falcons also do not have the luxury of having two Pro Bowl OLB pass rushers in Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs.
The entire Falcons defense has only generated 5 sacks in 5 games, 1.5 sacks come from their best pass rusher in Vic Beasely. However, Vic, has been an afterthought much of this year as he has failed to live up to the expectations of his new $13 million dollar contract. There should be nobody on the Falcon’s pass rush that should frighten the Cardinals up front. This should be a favorable matchup the Cardinals can exploit.
Look for D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, AQ Shipley, JR Sweezy, and Justin Murray to have solid days in pass blocking. I believe Murray will have plenty of time to throw. Also, with Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd looking to return to the lineup, this should allow the Cardinals to have a great day through the air. Kyler Murray should also be able to use his legs often if and when pressure occurs.
2. Edmonds, Murray, Johnson on the Ground
After compiling 266 rushing yards last week, the Cardinals Air Raid offense looked as if the strength of this team may exist on the ground. Murray, Johnson, and Edmonds all had very productive days running the ball in a close win vs. the Bengals. Granted the Bengals defense is one of the worst in the league, but the Cardinals for the most part have had success running the ball as they are currently ranked 11 in the league in total rushing yards.
The Falcons are currently allowing over 100 yards per game on the ground, and even if David Johnson is unable to suit up on Sunday, I expect the Cardinals backfield to have productive days. Edmonds was impressive last week, and has been a consistent performer week in and week out. He runs decisively, and is able to slip through holes most cannot. He is a different runner that David Johnson, but it is welcomed, as it allows the Cardinals to attach defenses in multiple ways.
Lastly, having Murray is an extreme luxury for the Cardinals. He has been able to use his legs when needed to both extend plays and also move the chains. He is being able to outrun most of the defensive ends on each of the opponents the Cardinals have played. This will be key in a win against the Falcons, as they have shown tendencies to allow quarterbacks to scramble and get loose. Overall, with a weak Falcon’s defensive line, and a less than stellar linebacking core, I expect the Cardinals to have big numbers rushing the ball.
3. Cardinals Pass Rush vs. Matt Ryan’s Interceptions
All season long, the Cardinals pass defense has been leaky and cost the Cardinals in a lot of close games early on in the season. This game will feature arguably the best receiving core the Cardinals have faced all season in Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu. These positions will be extremely difficult to guard for the Cardinals, and I believe the Cardinals will allow Matt Ryan to pass for over 300 yards on Sunday.
However, I believe the difference in this game will be the Cardinals ability to generate pressure on Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan has not been himself this year and has thrown 7 interceptions, which is 2nd most in the league. Ryan normally takes care of the ball, but this season, he has failed to do so. Too often this season when pressure has come, he has forced throws and made bad decisions. If anyone has the personnel to wreak havoc in the backfield it is the Cardinals Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs.
The defensive line is not much to write home about for the Cardinals, but Jones and Suggs have formed a dynamic duo thus far through the season and have each had multi sack games. I believe they will be able to apply pressure on Matt Ryan and force him into bad decisions. This game will be a shootout, as previously noted due to both teams’ defenses under-performing, so any turnovers the defense can create might be enough to swing the momentum. Look for the cardinals to exploit their edge rush advantage.