If the draft happened today, The Falcons would have the fourth overall pick and the Cardinals the second, making this game intriguing for one reason only: draft order. Well, that’s not necessarily true. If you are a Falcons fan, there are several interesting story lines that will play out over these last few games. None more interesting than how this team will respond after looking lost these last two weeks.
Atlanta hasn’t just dropped five games in a row. They’ve been dismantled for the majority of all of them. Everybody across the offensive line has underperformed, which has resulted in several changes already. The defense has run out of excuses for their poor play, and the coaching staff cannot figure out how to keep their players motivated. It’s become a complete dumpster fire, something not totally unusual around this time for a few teams each year.
When that happens, everybody is playing for their jobs. Dan Quinn has already stated he’s open to just about anything to get this ship turned around. That said, who knows how much longer Quinn will be in town for. Arthur Blank assured both Quinn and Dimitroff had not lost his faith after the Falcons 26-16 loss to the Ravens two weeks ago- but Sunday’s showing in Green Bay had to make Blank question the direction of where things are heading. Another embarrassing loss in the final home game of the season to the Cardinals might result in the Falcons beloved owner saying enough is enough.
Speaking of the Cardinals, they enter this matchup 3-10, just a game worse than Atlanta to this point. A win for them would actually allow the Falcons to jump up to at least the #3 spot in the draft order. They are led by rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen, who has had a pretty disappointing campaign. He’s started in ten games, thrown for close to 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a completion percentage of 55.4.
The problem is that it hasn’t really mattered who this Atlanta defense is facing, they are prone to giving up a lot of yards. A true quarterback’s dream, featuring a pass rush that rarely applies pressure and a battered secondary that gives up way too many easy passes and bails out offenses with penalties. They’ve also allowed teams to consistently establish a rushing attack against them over this five-game losing streak. Rosen should have his opportunity to look like a capable starting quarterback come Sunday.
That is if his offensive line can provide him with some protection. Only Seattle has fewer pass attempts than the Cardinals on the year, yet Arizona has still allowed 35 sacks. That’s only three less than the Falcons have allowed, and Ryan has 116 more pass attempts. Now, the Falcons pass rush is far from intimidating, but they did come up with four sacks last week in Green Bay and did so by coming up with some creative blitzes against a banged up offensive line. Look for more of the same this week, facing a rookie quarterback and another injury-riddled line.
I do feel David Johnson will give the Atlanta defense some trouble. Running backs have been the Achilles’ heel for the Falcons- both on the ground and in the passing game. Johnson is a versatile back having a nice bounce-back year after missing all but one game in 2017. However, I don’t think he will be nearly enough in this one.
The Falcons can’t come out lifeless for three straight weeks. Coaches and players’ jobs are hanging by a thread. It’s the final home game. The offensive line looked better in Green Bay. Matt Ryan should have a little time in this one and the offense should be able to account for close to 30 points. Defensively, I expect this to be the best the Falcons have looked all season- more because who they are playing than anything else. Atlanta gets up early and they win this game by double digits.
Falcons 28, Cardinals 14