I think we’ll see Atlanta’s starters get more playing time, but I’m skeptical that they’ll play into the third quarter like they have in the past. I’m more interested in some key positions, though. Will Duke Riley actually emerge as a starter or will his role be more limited initially? Who will emerge as the favorite for WR6 out of Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall? Will Brian Hill get to run behind a decent OL and is Terron Ward going to hang onto that RB3 spot? Who is our starting RG for the season: Ben Garland or Wes Schweitzer? This is the game where we will likely get most of our answers to these questions and it’s the only thing I’m really all that interested in.
Halftime score: Falcons infinity, Cardinals i to the power of e
Our first units have been perfect in very limited action, so the extra playing time will help show how they can do when they’re out there long enough to break a sweat. I’ll enjoy watching them in the first half, but I’m even more interested in some of the backups, such as Kevin Graf, Jack Lynn, Nick Williams, Cornelius Edison, Quincy Mauger, Reggie Davis, and hopefully Jermaine Grace.
Watch to see who is on the first unit special teams groups this week. Those groups are likely to tip off how everyone stands among the backups. The first unit gunners, jammers, wedge and wings are more likely to make the roster than the later groups. We had some mix-and-match in the first two games but should start zeroing in on the real groupings in this one.
Star Of The Game = Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We’ve been waiting so long for this debut. It’s finally here.
Score - Falcons 24 Cardinals 19
Outside of the grand opening of the gorgeous Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this may be the contest in which the few position battles are finally settled. The WR6 battle has been a tight one through training camp and the preseason with Reggie Davis, Marvin Hall, Nick Williams, and Anthony Dable all showing a few signs of making the team. This may be the contest in which the inevitable winner makes a lasting imprint. Other things to watch are defensive line rotations, the right guard battle between Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, the play of newly signed tackle Austin Pasztor, how many snaps corner Jalen Collins sees, and the over/under on how many Chick-Fil-A nuggets are sold by halftime.
Falcons something, Cardinals something
The score doesn’t matter in the preseason, and there’s virtually no good way of predicting it. So I won’t. What I will predict is that the starting offense and defense will once again look very good. The Cardinals regressed quite a bit in 2016, but they’re still a talented team. This should be a much stiffer test for the defense than the Josh Dobbs-led Steelers, and I think they’ll continue to impress. The offense should also have a fairly good opponent in this game, and I’m interested to see if they can continue their dominance. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a little more from Alek Torgersen in this game, as Matt Simms is no longer eligible for the practice squad and he certainly isn’t unseating Matt Schaub.
Falcons Papa Johns, Cardinals Not Papa Johns
I don’t expect the Revenge Tour to keep the preseason a complete shutout, but I am looking forward to the team flexing its full might for probably a quarter or so. Quinn has been very easy on the starters in terms of preseason reps, and for good reason: they clearly appear to be in midseason form and don’t need to wear themselves out. I’m still very interested in the #6 WR battle. Quinn himself has singled out Reggie Davis as making the most of his opportunity - I would love to see him get some plays with the 1’s to see what he can do. I expect another strong showing from the starters, with some of our rotational players playing deep into the game. Kick back and enjoy it, folks, and for the millionth time, don’t read too much into it.