What to know about the Falcons vs. Cardinals in Week 10

What to know about the Falcons vs. Cardinals in Week 10
What to know about the Falcons vs. Cardinals in Week 10

The Atlanta Falcons are reeling. The Arizona Cardinals have been reeling for over a calendar year, but that reeling is a reeling with purpose.

The tanking allegations come and go for Arizona, especially this week with Kyler Murray getting back into the lineup, but they’re on a crash course with a top, possibly franchise-altering draft choice. They stink, but they’ve been a scrappy kind of stinky, hanging in games longer than you’d suspect and making them competitive enough to make you believe they’re not just cashing in this season under first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon in. If you want to tank, you have to make your team so bad that it’s impossible for them to win because the players and coaches are still going to strive for those victories, and the Cardinals aren’t quite there.

I mention all that because losing to the Cardinals would be a rough, rough outcome for the Falcons. This is a 1-8 football team getting Murray back on the field for the first time in a long while, one with a subpar defense and an offense you learn about from desperation pickups in your worst fantasy football league. They can win on a good day and they can win if Murray hits the ground running, but a lot has to break right for that to happen.

The Falcons have been that break-right team the past couple of weeks. They got a hapless, starting-Will-Levis-for-the-first-time Titans team back on their feet, and they gave the NFL the feel-good story of the year when Josh Dobbs came out not knowing the names of some of his receivers and piloted the Vikings to victory. They’re falling short in so many ways that cataloging them all is beyond the scope of this article, but Arizona presents an opponent they can get right against. It’s just going to take the sharper football I keep demanding and keep not seeing.

Here’s what you need to know about the matchup ahead.

Falcons – Cardinals head-to-head


Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Falcons 4-5 25 11 17 9 18 6 10 14 24 27
Cardinals 1-8 28 26 31 8 27 24 17 26 22 14

The Cardinals just aren’t very good. They can run reasonably well, especially if James Conner is back in action, but the Falcons run defense remains one of the league’s most consistently stout units, with their only recent struggles coming against quarterbacks and the great Derrick Henry. The problem is that Arizona’s putrid passing totals aren’t a lock to continue with Kyler Murray under center, given his obvious ability. If Conner runs well and Murray is passing well and scrambling effectively, the defense will be tested.

Defensively, absolutely nothing about Arizona is special. Atlanta is much more likely to beat themselves through missed opportunities than the Cardinals are through any sort of concerted defensive effort, and their relative lack of turnovers should help turnover-happy Taylor Heinicke avoid disaster this week. A well-executed gameplan that focuses on the run should pilot the Falcons to victory.

Basically, this game figures to be more of a test of the defense than the offense for Atlanta, but of course the Falcons’ offense has been a bigger trouble spot over the entire season. We’ll see how it goes.

How the Cardinals have changed

The only big additions via free agency were swing tackle Kelvin Beachum, former Giants guard Will Hernandez, and linebacker Kyzir White. They let a couple of key pieces go and largely decided to get by with line upgrades and their draft class.

I have to say, the draft class does look promising. Paris Johnson Jr. has the makings of a tremendous tackle, rookie Garrett Williams is already the team’s nickel back, and Dante Stills, BJ Ojulari, and Thomas Starling and Kei’Trel Clark are contributing as reserves on defense.

The idea for Arizona is that they’ll have a foundation next year, when they’ll have a top five pick in a good class and may be moving Kyler Murray for a major return, depending on what direction they want to take this thing and how Murray does over the final eight eight games. They’re one of the least talented teams in the league, top to bottom, but the flexibility they possess and the talent they’ll be able to add next year give them hope for the future.

What to know about Sunday’s game

This matchup likely hinges on how sharp Kyler Murray is and whether the Falcons can contain him. After the past three weeks, assuming that the defense can keep a strong scrambler in the pocket and prevent a quarterback who can attack them deep from doing so is no given, and Murray is extremely talented.

It will be important to keep Murray’s deep passing in check, as he loves to chuck it and was really good from 2019-2021 at attacking defenses downfield. The Falcons have been beaten on some big plays, most notably by Will Levis two weeks ago, and will need to discourage Murray from taking those shots by clamping down early.

The problem is that Murray will be playing in a new offense, with a new coaching staff, and the Falcons have only seen him once, way back in 2019 when he killed them to the tune of three passing touchdowns. He’s a far more refined runner than he was back in 2019, and the Falcons have nothing to refer to in terms of what Murray is in offensive coordinator Drew Petzing’s scheme. The only thing we really do know is that he will run, and the Falcons will have their hands full with stopping that.

If they can do that, the rest of the matchup falls into place. The Cardinals have allowed plenty of rushing yards this year, and the Falcons need to get their rushing attack on track. The Cardinals have allowed plenty of passing yards, and the Falcons need Taylor Heinicke and this attack to get uncorked a bit. They’ve allowed the fourth-highest points total in the NFL, and the Falcons have had trouble scoring consistently on offense. The Cardinals are among the most heavily penalized teams in the NFL, and the Falcons could use an opponent that matches their ongoing sloppiness. And so he. If the offense is ever going to get back on track, it should start against the Cardinals, who have some interesting pieces and a solid pass rush but not the kind of defense that should be able to stymie the Falcons if they’re actually rolling.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s another straightforward matchup. Get Murray somewhat in check, slow the Cardinals ground game, and punish a so-so defense and you roll to victory, even on the road. Fail to do one or more of those things and you’re probably losing for the third straight week, turning the heated discussion around Arthur Smith and this team’s fortunes into an inferno. This is, fears and recent failures aside, a very winnable game.

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Tags: Falcons Cardinals Week


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