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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 9

Big changes coming for the Cardinals. A new power in the NFC South. A lot of middle-tier groups after the bye.

Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!

If Atlanta’s season was at a crossroads last week, it’s teetering on the edge of a cliff after the team lost to Josh Dobbs and the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in Week 9. We all know the incriminating details of that game by this point, and the performance makes it clear that things aren’t going to be easy for the Falcons.

Another seemingly simple game awaits Atlanta in Week 10. The Arizona Cardinals are fresh off a 27-0 loss to the Cleveland Browns, and the Falcons are an objectively better team than their desert-dwelling opponents. Unless the Falcons can fix the myriad of problems that have cropped up, however, the road ahead won’t be straightforward.

A brief refresher for those who may be reading this piece for the first time: This exercise is meant to provide a quick synopsis of how each team did the previous week. I’ll highlight a standout player from each side of the ball, and for the two teams next on Atlanta’s schedule, I’ll include a potential x-factor player for the upcoming matchup.

Here’s how the Falcons’ remaining opponents looked in Week 9:

Week 10 – at Arizona Cardinals (1-8)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Loss at Seattle (20-10)

- Week 8: Loss vs Baltimore (31-24)

- Week 9: Loss at Cleveland (27-0)

Tweet-length summary of Cardinals in Week 9:

Arizona gained seven first downs, averaged 1.2 yards per play and totaled just 58 yards in its shutout loss to Cleveland. Against the Browns’ standout defense, the Cardinals looked putrid on offense. The defense played fairly well, all things considered.

Best offensive player in Week 9: C Hjalte Froholdt

Froholdt was one of four offensive linemen to give up a sack against Cleveland, but outside of that one blemish, I thought he played fairly well. Nobody really had a good game for Arizona’s offense.

Best defensive player in Week 9: S Buddha Baker

We all know how good Baker is, right? Well, he continues to provide weekly reminder since his return from a hamstring injury. The versatile safety led Arizona with 10 tackles and was very effective in coverage while playing a season-high 73 snaps.

X-factor for Cardinals in Week 10: QB Kyler Murray

No question. Reports indicate that Murray will make his first start of the season for Arizona if he suffers no setbacks this week in practice, and the dynamic quarterback can be a handful when healthy. If Murray is on his game, he can be one of the most frustrating players for opposing defenses.

That’s far from a guarantee, though. Despite their record, this Cardinals team feels better coached and more coherent than in previous seasons. Perhaps Murray will benefit from that as well.

Team stat to know: Arizona’s defense allows 26.7 points per game, which is sixth-most in the league this season.

Weeks 12 & 18 – New Orleans Saints (5-4)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Loss vs Jacksonville (31-24)

- Week 8: Win at Indianapolis (38-27)

- Week 9: Win vs Chicago (24-17)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 9:

Not my NFC South division leaders.

Best offensive player in Week 9: ?? Taysom Hill

If he were born in 1929, would Taysom Hill be the greatest football player in memory? He is the modern-day version of the guy who played quarterback, safety, captained the baseball team and also was the starting point guard. Hill led the Saints with 52 rushing yards on 11 carries, threw a touchdown pass on his only attempt, and had a receiving touchdown.

Best defensive player in Week 9: CB Paulson Adebo

Adebo’s sensational season continues. The third-year cornerback secured two interceptions, finished second on the team with seven tackles, and forced a fumble. He did allow his highest yardage total of the year – 66 yards – but Adebo is emerging as another star in this Saints secondary.

Team stat to know: New Orleans leads the league with 12 interceptions this season.

Week 13 – at New York Jets (4-4)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Bye

- Week 8: Win at New York Giants (13-10)

- Week 9: Loss vs Los Angeles Chargers (27-6)

Tweet-length summary of Jets in Week 9:

Best offensive player in Week 9: RB Breece Hall

It’s just not fair to have to think about what could have been for Hall and Garrett Wilson. A more threatening pass attack led by Aaron Rodger would surely have granted Hall more space to operate. Instead, he’s facing run-heavy defenses who dare Zach Wilson to beat them. Still, Hall gained 60 yards, including 50 on the ground. He was good, even if his production wasn’t.

Best defensive player in Week 9: CB D.J. Reed

Reed is PFF’s highest-graded cornerback this season, his second with the Jets. He put together one of his best performances against Los Angeles, breaking up a pair of passes and complementing Sauce Gardner incredibly well. Reed allowed just one catch for 7 yards and also forced a fumble.

Team stat to know: The Jets rank fifth in rushing yards per play, averaging 4.67 yards.

Week 14 – vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Loss vs Atlanta (16-13)

- Week 8: Loss at Buffalo (18-24)

- Week 9: Loss at Houston (39-37)

Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 9:

The Buccaneers have lost four straight games, including two down-to-the-wire nailbiters. They allowed a career day to C.J. Stroud and their pass defense is trending in the wrong direction. Not mad about it.

Best offensive player in Week 9: RT Luke Goedeke

Tampa Bay’s second-year tackle has done really well this fall. He’s taken some notable steps as a run blocker, and that was apparent on Sunday. The Bucs had a lot of success running to the right, and Goedeke was also excellent at sealing the backside of run plays to the left, which helped Rachaad White score both his touchdowns.

Best defensive player in Week 9: DT Vita Vea

Vea’s stat sheet won’t impress—he had only four tackles. But all four of those tackles were categorized as stops, which means an unsuccessful play for the offense. Considering that Houston’s running backs carried that ball 14 times for 29 yards, it’s clear how impactful Vea was at clogging up the middle. On a day where the defense gives up 39 points, that’s about as big a bright spot as you’ll find.

Team stat to know: The Buccaneers have a turnover differential of plus-8, which is tied for third-best in the NFL.

Week 15 – at Carolina Panthers (1-7)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Bye

- Week 8: Win vs Houston (13-15)

- Week 9: Loss vs Indianapolis (27-13)

Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 9:

Bryce Young threw three interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes. Hayden Hurst was the team’s leading receiver with 54 yards. The Panthers had 10 penalties. This team is a mess outside of its defense.

Best offensive player in Week 9: LT Ikem Ekwonu

Ekwonu hasn’t received a shoutout in this space yet, but he bounced back from a tough game against Houston in Week 8 with a much better performance against Indianapolis. The second-year left tackle allowed just three pressures and did not allow a sack, and he was a people-mover in the run game.

Best defensive player in Week 9: Edge Brian Burns

Burns registered five pressures against Indianapolis, although he was held without a sack. Still, Burns continues to stand out as the best player on a Panthers’ defense filled with some nice pieces. He had four tackles and two stops to go along with his pressure count.

Team stat to know: The Panthers’ point differential of minus-10.8 is second-worst in the league.

Week 16 – vs Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Loss vs Cleveland (39-38)

- Week 8: Loss vs New Orleans (38-27)

- Week 9: Win at Carolina (27-13)

Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 9:

A pair of pick-sixes helped the Colts put up 27 points on a day when the offense gained less than 200 yards on the road. That’s a nice way to live.

Best offensive player in Week 9: WR Michael Pittman Jr.

Pittman has been back to his high-volume ways after a little bit of a dip last month, and he caught all eight passes thrown his way on Sunday for a team-high 64 yards.

Best defensive player in Week 9: CB Kenny Moore II

This was one of the performances of the weekend. Moore jumped one short throw by Bryce Young and corralled another errant throw later in the game, taking both to the house for pick-sixes. The interception returns went for 49 yards and 66 yards, and Moore was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Team stat to know: Indianapolis ranks seventh with 25.8 points per game.

Week 17 – at Chicago Bears (2-7)

Last three games:

- Week 7: Win vs Las Vegas (30-12)

- Week 8: Loss at Los Angeles Chargers (30-13)

- Week 9: Loss at New Orleans (24-17)

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 9:

Best offensive player in Week 9: RG Teven Jenkins

Jenkins has developed into a really nice offensive lineman and Sunday’s showing was one of his best. Jenkins was the top-graded offensive player by PFF, registering a 91.1 overall grade. He allowed just one pressure on 39 pass block snaps and helped pave the way for a big game on the ground by D’Onta Foreman.

Best defensive player in Week 9: LB T.J. Edwards

It’s every week with this guy. Edwards was once again doing a little bit of everything at a high level. He led the team with 15 tackles, including four stops and also broke up a pass in coverage. The former Philadelphia Eagle has been a rockstar in his first season with the Bears.

Team stat to know: Chicago’s offense ranks seventh in both red-zone and third-down conversion rate.