Cardinals vs. Falcons: Scouting the Opponent
After the Atlanta Falcons suffered a big loss to Houston this past Sunday, 53-32, the team continued west and have spent the week in Arizona. Although head coach Dan Quinn had planned this stay prior to their loss, he admits that he’s hoping the extra time will give the team time to work on the defensive side of the ball. Quinn, who is also the team’s defensive coordinator, has received a lot of criticism this season from Atlanta fans and NFL analysts. NFL Network and former Falcon Deion Sanders has predicted that the Falcons coaching staff won’t make it past week 8. With Quinn and the Falcons’ cast feeling like they have something to prove, how will they fare with the Cardinals?
Atlanta defense vs. Arizona offense
In the NFL, it’s often just about the numbers. And the numbers don’t look good for the Falcons defense. Last week they gave up 592 yards of total offense to the Texans, allowing Houston’s QB Deshawn Watson to end his day 28 of 33, 5 TD’s, zero sacks and a perfect QB rating (158.3). They also gave up 46 points to Houston’s offense, allowed the Texans to convert 77% of their third downs and add points to the board in 8 of their 10 drives.
Ouch... Although this was by far their worst performance on the year, their 4 previous games aren’t anything to write home about either. The Falcons lead only the Miami Dolphins for points allowed per game (30.4) and are tied with Miami and Washington for third downs allowed (56.5%). So far this year, the Falcons pass rush has been nearly nonexistent. Providing that the Cardinals offensive line is as sturdy as it was last week against Cincinnati, this should give Kyler more time to make a play. If the Cardinals choose the run game more, like they did last week, expect to see Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell’s. He played 100% of the defensive snaps last week, and leads the team in tackles this year, but has yet to rack up a QB hit or a fumble on the year.
The Falcons secondary is allow allowing large gaps in their coverage and a dangerous amount of separation between receivers. It’s still unknown at this point if Christian Kirk’s ankle will allow him to return this week, but his speed could be helpful. Maybe Kingsbury will call on Andy Isabella this week to exploit that separation and give the air raid some life. Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, who has the teams two interceptions, has been placed on the injured reserve list as of Wednesday.
To further foil Quinn’s plan of improving their defense, one of their other CB’s, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and recently signed safety Johnathan Cyprien were also added to IR. The team has two other CB’s to plug in – Isaiah Oliver and DJ White. White who was just released from Philadelphia’s practice squad and signed to Atlanta’s active roster, hasn’t played a game this year and may need time to get familiar with the team.
Atlanta offense vs. Arizona defense
For all of the bad news about their defense, the Falcon’s offense has been putting up impressive numbers. The Falcons and QB Matt Ryan were able to move the ball efficiently most of the game. Ryan, who went 32 of 46 and had his own rushing TD, trails only Patrick Mahomes with passing yards at 1,655. In the past three games, Ryan has thrown for at least 300 yards. Unfortunately, the team had made too many errors to make up for this gain and each of these games ended up in the loss column.
WR Julio Jones normally presents a challenge for defenders, even for one of the league’s best CB’s in the Patrick Peterson. Jones production has changed significantly this year, especially in the past two games. Against Houston, he only went 3 for 7 for a total of 42 yards. What could be the most concerning for the Cardinals is that the Falcons player with the most receiving yards is tight end Austin Hooper with 363. Amongst NFL tight ends, Hooper ranks second with 34 receptions. With CB Tramaine Brock’s shoulder injury still being monitored, coverage of Jones may be the responsibility of rookie Byron Murphy. Did the Cardinals figure out how to cover tight ends yet? Or did the Bengals make bad play calls? This game will provide us some answers.
Injuries have plagued both the Cardinals and the Falcons so far this season, leading to lack of depth for each team. With each team having similar deficits and strengths, this will likely be decided by who makes less mistakes.