Updated: Nov 11
Atlanta goes to take on another bird squad in the NFL, the 1-8 Arizona Cardinals. After two very rough losses, Atlanta can go into the bye week with a much needed win. Atlanta is facing numerous difficult variables right now, one of them being the quarterback situation. On Monday, Arthur Smith stated that Taylor Heinicke will make the start against the Cardinals. Additionally, Smith also told media that he "certainly doesn't plan on it (the QB situation) being week-to-week after (the bye week). But we need to do everything we can to go get this win out in Arizona."
The other variable goes to Smith himself. Pressure has been put on the Falcons' head coach due to player misuse and offensive play-calling. I said last week that if Atlanta doesn't win against the Cardinals, Atlanta's front office may have to look the other. Atlanta simply needs a win, no matter who is under center or calling the plays. So, as always, let's go Dirty Birds!
In what was supposed to be somewhat of an 'easy' matchup (who am I kidding, the last two weeks have been easy, and Atlanta lost both), the Cardinals will have Kyler Murray start, his first game in about 11 months. It's been a whirlwind of a season for Arizona, as they rank 28th in points and 26th in yards. They also rank eighth in rushing yards, and with James Conner projected to play Sunday as well, the Cardinals rushing attack could be an issue for the Atlanta defense.
The Cardinals haven't really found their groove there yet, either. The Arizona defense is 28th in points and 24th in yards given up, and they rank 29th in rushing touchdowns given up at 12. This could be a week where Bijan Robinson fantasy owners lighten up on Arthur Smith if Smith decides to utilize him more than he already does (wink, wink). This Cardinal's one win this season can't go without mentioning, as they handed the Dallas Cowboys a loss back in Week 3. Regardless of records, you can't take any team lightly in the NFL, whether they have one win or ten. Now, with the Cardinals getting Murray back, this could be much more than a walk in the park for the Falcons.
Date: November 12
Start Time: 4:05pmET/2:05pmPT
Location: Glendale, Arizona
Stadium: State Farm Stadium
TV Info: CBS
Key Players- Offense
THE ENTIRE FALCONS OFFENSE, YEAH YOU TOO ARTHUR
Alright, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty involving the Falcons offense. Every player that takes an offensive snap is a key player. The crazy thing is Atlanta's offense isn't as bad as some portray it. They rank 11th in total yards, but the part that does get the bad rap is that they rank 25th in points. In watching all the Falcons games this year, there is a trend that I've noticed, especially recently. The offense starts strong by gaining a new set of downs, followed by running and passing the ball downfield efficiently. However, once they get to mid-field, and more usually the red zone, they stall out. Now, what I just mentioned is the most disappointing thing coming out of Arthur Smith, not necessarily the Bijan touches or Pitts Targets. But rather the lack of ways to get your offense to score six points, instead of three. However, the frustration does continue when Atlanta is in those "need a score" or 'need a first down' situations and Bijan, Pitts, or other playmakers are not on the field nor getting the ball.
The other point I want to make is the turnovers on offense, something that goes beyond Arthur Smith. 15.4% of Atlanta drives result in turnovers. Just in the last game, Atlanta had two turnovers, both costly and resulting in points for the opponent. Turnovers are a huge issue, and Atlanta has been beating themselves more than they've beaten other teams just because they rank 6th in the league in turnover percentage.
Arizona Cardinals - QB Kyler Murray
The 2019 first-overall pick will play in his first game in nearly a year this Sunday. Murray's legs are arguably his biggest asset, as he can move in and out of the pocket very well, but at the same time, he can sling the ball downfield with little to no issue. It's a necessity for the Falcon's pass rush to keep Murray in the pocket and make him as uncomfortable as possible. Just take a look at the things he can do outside the pocket.
(I'll scream if he did this Sunday)
Key Players- Defense
Atlanta Falcons - IDL David Onymeta
Onymeta has been a sneaky good player for the Falcons this season. A lot has been put on his plate after Grady Jarrett was ruled out for the rest of the season. Onymeta is tied for the team lead in sacks at 3.5 and is fifth in total tackles at 39. Pass rush is a bigger need than it's been any other week just due to Murray's mobility. Atlanta's pass rush will have to do everything they can to keep Murray in the pocket.
(NOTE: Onyemata is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday. No designation has been made if he'll play or not, a huge hit if Onyemata cant play)
Arizona Cardinals - LB Kyzir White
White is the leading tackler for the Cardinals, and it's by a landslide. White currently has 76 total tackles, and the next Cardinal has 43. If Atlanta can take White out of plays, this already struggling Cardinals defense could keep riding the struggle bus Sunday. White also has two sacks and an interception on the season. So, let's not allow the NFL veteran to do his thing and make a ridiculous number of tackles. The former Philadelphia Eagle has over 100 tackles in the last two seasons, so stopping him is a must.
Points Spread: ATL -1.5 (-108) | ARI + 1.5 (-112)
Moneyline: ATL (-120) | ARI (+102)
Over/Under: O 43.5 (-110) | U 43.5 (-110)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, November 10
So, here we are once again where I say, 'Atlanta is the favorite, but I'm having trouble picking them', and then I pick them anyway. In all seriousness, I'm having trouble saying Atlanta can walk out with a win against the 1-8 Cardinals. There are a lot of variables going into this week for the Falcons, which could affect their performance, their QB situation the rest of the way, and Arthur Smith's job security, to name a couple. This is a really good opportunity for the Falcon's offense to get a spark against the Cardinal's defense, and have a positive note going into the bye. Atlanta has the weapons, it's just how they're used and if they can execute. Speaking of weapons, how about this stat from Jonnu Smith's touchdown last Sunday?
Alright, since this is a must-win game, or in Taylor Heinicke's words, "the Super Bowl" for the Falcons, I cannot pick them to win. Atlanta will have to use ALL their offensive weapons and keep Murray in the pocket if they do want any chance of going into the bye week .500. In addition, Arthur Smith's job may depend on this game, so I'm sure we'll see all the bells and whistles on offense.
(I'll also be at the game, so in my most unbiased opinion. No way they lose, right? Right???)
Final Score: Atlanta Falcons 31, Arizona Cardinals 17
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