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Falcons vs. Cardinals: 3 in-game matchups to watch

The Falcons defense has held three of its last four opponents to 323 total yards or less.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In search of a much-needed win, the Atlanta Falcons look to emerge victorious this week against the Arizona Cardinals. Here are three in-game matchups to be mindful of.

Looking back to the beginning of the season, probably none of us expected the Atlanta Falcons to be in this position that they are currently in. Sitting at 4-9 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the team has underachieved considerably, even considering the abundant amount of injuries this season.

Coming to town for the Falcons final home game of the season is an Arizona Cardinals team that has encountered a few struggles themselves this season. The Falcons have an opportunity to get that bad taste out of their mouth and get back to winning ways. Here are three in-game matchups that will play a integral part in the outcome.

Falcons Pass Defense vs. Cardinals Pass Offense

Absolutely woeful: a brief description of the Cardinals on offense all season. The team drafted rookie quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft as their franchise passer. The future is now the present as Rosen has started 10 games this season with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

On the season, the Cardinals have totaled 175 passing yards or less in 10 of 13 games played. As a result, they are 32nd in the NFL in passing yards per game, 32nd in yards per pass, and 30th in completion percentage. So the task for the Falcons appears manageable at least. While Rosen has a bright future, the Falcons passing defense needs to continue the trend by keeping Rosen a complete non-factor.

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Falcons Run Offense vs. Cardinals Run Defense

Something has to give in this one. Each of these units has ranked in the bottom half of the league for most of the season. For the Falcons, the run game has been a weakness for the team this season, with only three games over 100 rushing yards recorded. In comparison, the Falcons offense recorded 100-yard rushing games on 11 different occasions last season.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s run defense has been a liability this season, with the unit only holding opponents under 100 yards rushing twice all season.

Can the Cardinals defense be exploited in the run game? No doubt. That onus will not completely be on the shoulders of running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. But the offensive line must be better at generating run lanes and getting to the second level against defenders. A 125-yard rushing outing can go a long way toward a win for the Falcons.

Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Cardinals CBs Patrick Peterson/Bene Benewikere

In three games against the Arizona Cardinals, all at home by the way, Julio Jones has totaled 17 catches, 257 yards, and a touchdown. Playing against the talented Patrick Peterson has been spotlighted, and the history between the two goes back to their encounters within the SEC when both were collegiate athletes. This season, Jones is quietly having a spectacular season as he leads the league in receiving yards with 1,429 to go along with five touchdown catches. Jones has topped 100 receiving yards in seven of his last eight games, so yeah, saying he is “hot” at the moment may be an understatement.

The Cardinals operate out a defense that relies on plenty of zone coverage on the back end. So Jones will not be matched up with Peterson as often as we have seen in years past. If you recall, Jones saw plenty of Benewikere en route to his 300-yard receiving game against Carolina back in 2016. It’s a favorable matchup that the Falcons would be wise to target as Jones has given both cornerbacks fits in previous matchups, and right now, he is a difficult cover for just about any secondary.