WATCH: 3 Things to know about the Falcons' Week 6 opponent -- Arizona Cardinals
The Atlanta Falcons will visit the Arizona Cardinals aiming to end a three-game losing streak on Sunday. The Falcons badly need a win to create some good will in the fan base and keep their playoff hopes alive. There's a lot of football left, and there's no such thing as a must-win in Week 6, but the Falcons cannot afford to fall any further in the hole to begin the year.
Fortunately, the Cardinals have more than a couple areas of weakness. Whether Atlanta can take advantage, though, remains the question.
First, starting on defense, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is the second-most sacked quarterback in the league with 20 sacks through five games. Last week, he was only sacked one time, but in the first four games, Murray suffered at least three sacks each week.
Of course, the Atlanta defense has played against a juicy offensive line matchup the last two weeks, and the Falcons recorded zero sacks. The team's last sack came in Week 3 at the Indianapolis Colts.
I've said this multiple times over the last two weeks, but I'll say it again, the Falcons must create a pass rush to help its battered secondary, which could be without two starters in Week 6. And this week, Atlanta will have to produce that rush while containing Murray's ability to run.
Murray has shown promise throwing the ball downfield, but for the most part, his best attribute this season has been his legs. He's averaged more yards per carry (7.4) than yards per pass (6.6) and thrown just as many interceptions as touchdowns (4). In every game where Murray has a touchdown pass this season, he's also thrown a pick.
Sacks would be great, but it would be even better if the Falcons could produce turnovers. Murray takes care of the ball when he's running around -- he's fumbled just once this year -- but if he's throwing downfield a lot, he's susceptible to a turnovers.
Lastly, on the other side of the ball, the Cardinals are very weak in two areas that the Falcons must exploit -- run defense and covering tight ends. The Cardinals have the sixth-worst run defense in the league and have allowed five touchdowns to tight ends this season.
The Falcons don't have a 100-yard rushing game yet this year while the Cardinals have allowed all five of their opponents to rush for at least 105 yards. Something's has to give in this matchup.
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter would be wise to stick with the running game all afternoon. Hopefully the Falcons aren't chasing the game and allowed to remain patient with the rushing attack.
Matt Ryan must also continue to feed tight end Austin Hooper, who leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Yes, the offense should make a conscious effort to get Julio Jones rolling again, but Hooper is the matchup to exploit this week.
I would go as far as to say Hooper needs to score at least one touchdown in order for the Falcons to win on Sunday.