What, me worry about the Falcons losing to the Cardinals? In a big picture sense, I’m not even sweating. In the sense that I am going to have to spend three-plus hours of my Sunday watching and writing about the game, I’m quite concerned.
If we’re operating under the assumption that the Falcons want to win this game—and from top to bottom, I don’t doubt that they do—there are ample reasons to feel confident about this game and a few reasons to be concerned. Let’s dive in to those now, as is our custom.
Feel confident about stopping the pass
The Falcons have one of the league’s worst pass defenses, but the Cardinals have a 1970s air assault. Something will have to give, but for once, I don’t think it’ll be Atlanta’s D.
The Cardinals over their last five games have passed for 200 yards exactly once, last week in a weird 10-3 loss to the Lions. They’ve thrown for 218, 133, 87, 128, and 166 yards in each of those games, and they’ve managed 3, 20, 10, 21 and 14 points in those games. The Chiefs, Raiders and Packers were all on the docket, and none of them have elite pass defenses, if that gives you any sense of how poorly things have gone for rookie Josh Rosen and this offense. It’s somehow gotten even worse after the team parted ways with Mike McCoy, though they’re at least running the ball well.
Atlanta showed glimpses of something a week ago against the Packers, with two near interceptions, four first half sacks and a handful of pressures that actually got Aaron Rodgers off his spot and into throwing the ball away. It’ll be a lighter lift against the Cardinals, if we’re being frank, and I think the Falcons are capable of holding Rosen to let’s say 250 yards and a touchdown on the day. Will that be enough to win? Um.
Worry about throwing the ball, in turn
The Falcons’ passing attack has gone completely in the tank. Matt Ryan has looked more timid and less sure in recent weeks, the pass protection has gone completely to hell, and Calvin Ridley’s traveling roadshow of drops have reared their ugly head. Without guys getting open at will, the offense is completely stagnated, and it’s clear the Falcons are going to have to run against Arizona to be successful at this point.
The Cardinals haven’t allowed over 250 yards passing since Week 5. Some of that is teams electing to run the ball and get the game over with, but their pass defense is legitimately strong thanks to an underrated secondary and the fearsome specter of Chandler Jones rushing the passer up front. Atlanta’s had weeks and weeks to get unstuck against some middling opponents and haven’t managed it, so I doubt this is the week that Matt Ryan and company suddenly pop off.