Another week of Atlanta Falcons action leads to another week of searching for their most intriguing players. But as we close out the calendar year of 2022 with the Falcons facing the Arizona Cardinals, the cardinal rule remains the same: only five Falcons can be named.
We will honor the rule. Here are this week’s five.
The Falcons’ third-round pick in Ridder remains an intriguing player entering his third NFL start. It’s one that should offer him the best chance to get a win before his four-game audition expires. It’s important that Ridder does earn a win, since it’s going to be hard to stake a claim to be the team’s starting quarterback beyond this year if he goes winless even in this limited run.
The Cardinals aren’t a juggernaut on defense, so if Ridder can’t shine brighter this week, it certainly will raise doubts over whether he should be given that starting opportunity next season. Now, it doesn’t mean that Ridder needs to throw for over 300 yards, but he certainly has to do enough to help the Falcons walk away with a win.
If Ridder is going to get his first win as a starter, he’ll need some help from Allgeier and the Falcons' running game. Yet, in addition to what Allgeier can provide on the ground, which is a lot, he could also find himself contributing more in the passing game. According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals rank 30th in the NFL in defensive passing DVOA against running backs.
Allgeier, along with Cordarrelle Patterson and Avery Williams, have not been featured heavily in the Falcons' passing attack this season. That may be changing with Ridder at the helm. According to Pro Football Focus, about 18 percent of Ridder’s passes have been screens compared to half that number for Marcus Mariota. Ridder is also completing screens at a higher rate and averaging more yards per attempt than his predecessor. That may be something the Falcons continue to incorporate into their offense to close out the year.
About two-thirds of J.J. Watt’s snaps feature him lining up on the left side of the defensive line, which means he’s going up against the right side of the offensive line. That means we should see a lot of Pro Bowl right guard Chris Lindstrom facing against one of the all-time greats. Watt recently announced he is retiring after the season and while he may be near the end, there is plenty left in the tank.
Watt had three sacks against the Denver Broncos just two weeks ago, so there’s a lot he can teach the young pup in Lindstrom before he hangs up the cleats. But here’s hoping the student will become the master by the time Sunday ends.
Jarrett was vocal about his frustration over the team’s season after last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. This week’s matchup gives him a chance to funnel that into production.
The Cardinals' offensive line has been piecemeal this year, down all three starters on the left side. That should be worthy of a new year’s feast for Jarrett, who has had relatively quiet games over the past several weeks. Jarrett started the season with 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 24 pressures in the first seven games this year. In the past seven, those numbers have dipped to 1.5 sacks, 4 hits, and 15 pressures.
The beat-up Cardinals line gives Jarrett another opportunity to finish the season strong and be all smiles during this weekend’s post-game interviews.
Another player that should benefit from facing the Cardinals’ weakened offensive line is rookie edge-rusher Arnold Ebiketie. He should find a favorable matchup regardless of which side of the defensive line he lines up on: left or right. Ebiketie has spent most of his rookie season lined up on the left side of the defensive line, so he’ll likely see a lot more of Cardinals right tackle Kelvin Beachum on Sunday. Beachum has allowed 46 pressures according to PFF, the second-most of any offensive tackle this season, and gave up four quarterback hits last week to Tampa Bay’s pass-rushers.
Like Jarrett, Ebiketie should also have a golden opportunity to rack up some production this week and finish his rookie season on a stronger note.
Although it seems impossible, are there other Falcons players that you can name that intrigue you in this Week 17 matchup?