View Full Version : Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals: Wildcard Preview

12-30-2008, 12:35 PM
The Cinderella Atlanta Falcons get to the playoffs with a rookie HC and a rookie QB, just a year after going 4-12 and having their HC quit on them halfway through the season. That and the Michael Vick fiasco had left the Falcons in a shambles that nobody expected them to get out of, especially not with the rookie QB and a mostly unknown DC at HC. They pulled it out, however, much to the surprise of the rest of the football world.

The Arizona Cardinals have been everybody's surprise team for the past 5 years, and this year they finally proved people right. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald keep adding to an already impressive resume, each putting together another 1,000 yard season, while Steve Breaston has his own 1,000 yard season as the #3 WR. Kurt Warner seems to have found new life in this offense after years of struggling with the Giants, and having to reclaim his starting job from the upstart young Matt Leinart, putting together what was at one point this season considered an MVP caliber season.

Falcons Offense vs. Cardinals Defense.

Running the Ball

The Falcons have relied on the run throughout the season. Michael Turner has shown, without a doubt, that he can carry the load and be more than just a backup, gaining 1,700 yards on the ground while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He is a bull of a RB with deceptive speed, and runs very hard. The OL has been opening holes for him to run through, and Jerious Norwood has come through with 500 yards rushing of his own as a nice change of pace back. The Falcons have only lost once when Turner carries the ball more than 20 times, and they have only won once when he hasn't carried it 20 times. Their offense lives and dies by how well Turner runs the ball, and if the Cardinals defense can step it up and keep Turner off his game, they have a chance to win this game.

The Cardinals defense is ranked 16th against the run, allowing 110 YPG, which isn't a good recipe for stopping Michael Turner and the 2nd ranked rushing attack. However, the Cardinals have a MLB in Karlos Dansby who has done a very good job, and who many people are starting to consider one of the top LBs in the league, amassing 119 tackles and forcing 2 fumbles. They will need a big game from him and Darnell Dockett if they wish to hold Turner down.

Passing the Ball

What more can you ask for from a rookie QB?? Matt Ryan has completed 61% of his passes, compiling 3,440 yards in 16 games. He has only thrown 11 INTs, but also only 16 TDs. Ryan has taken care of the ball well, and managed the game damn near flawlessly. Having the run game they possess has obviously been a huge asset for Ryan's ability to succeed, but he has made plays when asked to. The Falcons have protected Ryan very well, allowing only 17 sacks, allowing him to sit in the pocket and find that open WR.

Against the pass, the Cardinals haven't exactly been stingy. They are 22nd in the league allowing 220 YPG, although they do have a couple of bright spots in their secondary. Antrel Rolle, who they moved to FS at the end of last season, has stepped up pretty well with 89 tackles, but he has only picked the ball off once (returning it for a 40 yard TD). Their rookie CB, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, leads the team with 4 INTs and has 1 returned for a TD. Cromartie will probably spend most of his time on the Falcons leading WR Roddy White, as they hope to contain one of the more underrated WRs in the league. The DL and LBs have collected 31 sacks throughout the season, with Travis LaBoy leading the team with 5. If they wish to stop Ryan with any consistency, they will need to put pressure on him.

Cardinals Offense vs. Falcons Defense.

Running the Ball

The Cardinals have been shaky at best when running the ball. Rookie Tim Hightower took over the starting spot from Edgerrin James in week 9, but hasn't produced very well since. After a big game against the Rams, Hightower didn't gain more than 35 yards in a game the rest of the season. James didn't fair much better, having 3 games in which he didn't get any carries, although he pulled out a 100 yard game against the Seahawks in week 17.

For all their success in the running game on offense, to say the Falcons have played poorly against it defensively may be an understatement. They are ranked 25th in the league allowing 127 YPG, and their only saving grace this game is that the Cardinals have only gained 73 YPG on the ground. Although they have 4 players with over 90 tackles, 2 of those players are safeties because RBs have been getting to the secondary on many of their carries averaging 4.9 YPC against a defense that is seemingly trying to compete with Swiss Cheese for having more holes.

Passing the Ball

The inability of the Cardinals offense to run, just makes what they have done in the passing game that much more amazing. They are ranked 4th in the league with 365 YPG, and 3 WRs with 1,000 yards on the season. Kurt Warner has been throwing the ball well, and avoiding costly turnovers only throwing 14 INTs while throwing 30 TDs and almost 4,600 yards. With 2 of the best WRs in the game, Warner's job has been made relatively easy once he gets rid of the ball, and he has been able to complete 67% of his passes. The line hasn't done a great job keeping him off his back, however, allowing 28 sacks on the season.

If you thought that maybe the Falcons did have one aspect of their defense that played well, you were wrong. Unfortunately against the pass they don't get to rely on the fact that the Cardinals offense is anemic. The Falcons pass defense is ranked 21st allowing 220 YPG. An already difficult task in stopping the 4th ranked passing offense, is multiplied by the ineptitude of the Falcons defense in stopping the pass to begin with. They only have 10 INTs on the season, their leader having 3 and their top CB having 2. Dominique Foxworth came in to start 10 of the 14 games he has spent with the Falcons this season, but they have clearly missed the fast (albeit overrated) Deangelo Hall. The secondary has had a lot of practice with tackling hard runners because they have had to tackle so many RBs, but Anquan Boldin should prove to be difficult for them throughout this game as he runs hard, and catches everything.

The Points Game

The reason the Falcons have won games is because even though they allow a lot of yards on defense, they don't allow a lot of points. They are 11th in the league in points allowed, only giving up 20 points per game. The offense is 10th in the league, having put up 24 points per game.

The Cardinals have won games because their offense can put up points in bunches, since their defense can't keep teams out of the end zone. The defense is allowing 26.6 points per game, ranked 28th in the league while the offense is getting 26.7 points per game, ranked 4th in the league. If they can score at will, as they have done in numerous games this season, they can win, if the Falcons can stop their offense a couple of times, it will be very difficult sledding for the NFC North division winners.

12-30-2008, 12:55 PM
Atlanta will easily beat Arizona.
They come from the worst division in football.
Even worse than the AFC West.

Medford Bronco
12-30-2008, 02:38 PM
Falcons are a more balanced and much better team.

I cant see them losing this game.

01-03-2009, 04:08 PM
I think this game could be interesting if the passing game clicks eary for Arizona. They coasted to finish the season but have plenty of firepower through the air to strike early and put pressure on that Falcons pass defense, Anderson/Abraham will play but have been banged up so if Warner has time watch out.

And of course Turner is the key as mentioned for Atlanta, Ryan has been good this season, ROY etc.. but does have 5 INT's in his last 4 games.

01-03-2009, 04:09 PM
I'm sure Atlanta will win - good in all three phases.

Heart would like to see the Cards win a playoff game though...

01-03-2009, 05:51 PM
Arizona starting to self destruct.

01-03-2009, 07:08 PM

Go Cards!!!

01-03-2009, 07:40 PM
Alright Cards - :salute:

Congrats on the 'W'

Now go Colts and pile that shit on...

(...UGH! - I can't believe I'm saying that...)

01-03-2009, 07:43 PM
Its so amazing to watch a team with defense. Nice job by the Cards.