Dave Choate: The Falcons have a lousy pass rush but a stout run defense and a solid secondary. What can we expect to see from the Cardinals' offense, given that?
Jess Root: Well, the Arizona offense has mostly been just bad. It isn't horrifically bad like in 2012 when they just couldn't move the ball at all, but they struggle to get points. Carson Palmer has thrown 13 picks, and many have been on drives when they were moving the ball. They like to throw the ball. That is Bruce Arians. They try to get Andre Ellington the ball with space.
Dave Choate: On the flip side, how would you go after the Arizona defense? The Falcons are short on receivers and I know you have a great secondary.
Jess Root: There is a sure fire way to have success -- throw to Tony Gonzalez. The Cards have given up ridiculous numbers to tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook and Vernon Davis have gone for 100+ yards and tight ends have scored 8 TDs on the defense. Tony Gonzalez is better than those guys. Outside of that, the short and intermediate passing game seems to be effective against the Cards as they try and lockdown plays down the field.
Dave Choate: Give me one player on each side of the ball who we need to watch out for on Sunday.
Jess Root: The guy on offense that is most exciting is rookie running back Andre Ellington. He is averaging almost eight yards per touch (he plays RB and WR) He is a first down machine and is great in space. He will take your breath away at least once.
Defensively, again it is a rookie to watch, and that is Tyrann Mathieu. He has gotten some work at safety, but most of his work is in the slot as a nickel corner. He just makes great football plays every week, whether tackling a guy short of the sticks on third or fourth down, getting an effective blitz on the QB or getting his hands on a ball.
Dave Choate: How's our old favorite John Abraham been looking thus far, and how much of a role will he have in this game?
Jess Root: Well, to start the season, he was expected to be a pass rushing specialist. He was not too effective in that role. However, once we had both starting outside linebackers and a third at the position were lost for the season, he was pushed into a full time role. He has been better. He had his first two sacks of the season against the Seahawks and he has gotten hands on the football, but that was against a backup tackle. The jury is still out on that signing, although it is a huge blessing to have him considering the injuries the team has suffered.
Dave Choate: How do you see this game and your season shaping up?
Jess Root: To be honest, I have no idea. The Cardinals play well at home. They have shown flashes of what could be and the Falcons do provide a potentially good matchup. They don't have a great pass rush, which is a very good thing considering the offensive line play out here. If Carson Palmer gets time, then he can pick apart a secondary. He will make one or two throws that make you wonder what in the world he was thinking, but his approach is good. If he can step into his throws, they will be on point. Larry Fitzgerald is almost 100 percent with his hamstring and the team has had 10 days to get ready.
Editor's Note: A throw like this?
So while I totally can see Atlanta getting better against a Cardinals team, I think the Cards get back on track and come away with a 23-17 win.