Week 17 is here, and the Atlanta Falcons have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. It’s frankly remarkable that it lasted this long, but allows this team to finally turn the page to 2023. There are still two games left this season, giving Atlanta the chance to a) finish strong and give us a lot of hope for a future with Desmond Ridder at QB, or b) lose out and secure a top-5 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The first of these games presents an excellent opportunity for the Falcons to get back in the win column, as this week the team faces the injury-depleted Arizona Cardinals.
Here at The Falcoholic, we like to think we keep you incredibly well-informed on all things Falcons. We’re not nearly as diligent in covering the Cardinals, so I’ve enlisted the help of an Arizona expert: Seth Cox. Seth is the managing editor over at Revenge of the Birds, SB Nation’s site covering everything Arizona Cardinals.
I brought five questions to Seth to try to find out what exactly went wrong for the Cardinals this season, how significantly the QB injuries have impacted things, and if there are any glimmers of hope for Arizona in 2022. Read on for Kyle’s answers.
Q1. The Cardinals have had a run of QB injuries, including losing Kyler Murray for the season. It looks like Colt McCoy is back at practice coming off his concussion. Do you expect McCoy to play on Sunday, and how big of an upgrade is he versus Trace McSorley?
Seth Cox: McCoy should play, however I would advocate for him to be done for the season and make sure as a 36-year old that cannot stay healthy. McCoy is a great backup, he 100% gives the Cardinals a better chance to win than McSorley who just looks like a really good rec league quarterback.
However, if McCoy is in there he can keep the team on schedule and if they are able to play from ahead he gives them a chance to win.
If McSorley is starting, this is really, really tough to see a Cardinals win as he just misses too many throws. I mean you have DeAndre Hopkins and had to manufacture a throw behind the line of scrimmage to keep his consecutive games with a catch streak alive.
Q2. Arizona has once again been a high-volume pass offense, but the yardage and touchdowns simply haven’t come even after the return of DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown to the lineup. Has the constant change at QB been the biggest issue, or is it something else?
Seth: As much as some fans hate to admit it, Kyler Murray did so much for this offense. Murray had 14 passing touchdowns, down a great deal this year, in 11 starts but really 10 games (they count the Patriots game where he left after three plays). Murray had 14 touchdown passes in 10 games, McCoy and McSorley combined have one in five games. They cannot do anything with the weapons they have and a lot of that comes from a pathetic offensive line (to be fair Kelvin Beachum is the only starter left). Josh Jones has been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals after D.J. Humphries got hurt, but outside of that it has been like watching a turnstiles week-to-week.
Q3. Defensively, the Cardinals have struggled and are 30th in points allowed. They’ve been a bit better against the run however, 12th in rushing yardage allowed (23rd in yards per carry). How do you feel about Arizona’s ability to slow down the elite run game of the Falcons?
Seth: I think they will be okay against the run because J.J. Watt is on a mission to finish his career strong and his last few weeks have shown it. It has been insane to watch, you feel like a timewarp with his play.
That being said, he is but one man and the Falcons run game has been a sight to behold this season. I love the duo of Allgeier and Patterson, and think that they will again have a good game that allows them to grind things out.
Zaven Collins needs to have about 25 tackles if this is going to be a defense that holds up against what is without a doubt a dominant rushing attack of the Atlanta Falcons.
Q4. The injury report has been brutal for Arizona this week, as star safety Budda Baker was declared out for the season and a number of starters have missed practice to start the week. Who are the players you’re concerned about missing for Sunday’s game?
Seth: Zach Allen, Antonio Hamilton, and Marco Wilson all need to be healthy if this team has a chance, since Hamilton and Wilson are the two other starters with Byron Murphy Jr. on IR. Allen has been great this season when healthy, he and Watt have had a nice one-two punch for the Cardinals.
If those three are not healthy, well they may have a contest before the game to see who can play cornerback for the Cardinals heading into the game.
Offensively, I don’t know if there is much left they can do, but Kelvin Beachum, Billy Price and Max Garcia are all out or limited and man can you go lower than your third string center and guard?
James Conner is also out which would kill them, but hopefully it will be a quick illness and he will be ready on Sunday.
Q5. The Falcons are currently 3-point favorites at home against the Cardinals, the first time they’ve been favorites for a while. What’s your prediction for the game?
Seth: The Falcons are coming into this game with the biggest X-Factor, that run game.
I think they grind things out, they run for about 150-175 yards and get Desmond Ridder his first win as a professional in a 20-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Good luck and good health to the Falcons in this one.
Many thanks to Seth Cox for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow him on Twitter at @SCoxFB, and if you’re in the mood for a Cardinals perspective on things, follow Revenge of the Birds at @revengeofbirds.