There is good news, and there is bad news for the Arizona Cardinals. The good news, they are no longer playing the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. The bad news, they are still playing the 8-1 Falcons. The Cardinals are coming off their bye week, but before that, they lost more than a few games. For accuracy sake, lets call it five.
The Falcons are coming off their only losing streak of the season. For the first four weeks in the NFL these two teams were neck and neck. Not so much any more. The Falcons have grown accustomed to their Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan. The Cardinals have a legitimate chance of having to use a third QB of the season. It just goes to show that having a consistent player leading your team is worth a lot.
The Cardinals have had some injury problems on both sides of the ball. Their bye week helped, but they listed 9 players on their injury report. The biggest name, DE Calais Campbell. His huge body will be missed if he can’t go this Sunday. If he can’t that will open the door for the running game for Atlanta. Lets go ahead and take a look at the probable starting lineups and highlight three key players from each team.
Quarterback: John Skelton
Running back: LaRod Stephens-Howling
Fullback: Anthony Sherman (probable)
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts
Tight end: Jeff King
Offensive line (from the left): Nate Potter, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Running back: Michael Turner (Probable)
Fullback: Mike Cox
Wide receiver: Julio Jones (Questionable), Roddy White
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez (Probable)
Offensive line (from the left): Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Peter Konz, Tyson Clabo
Cardinals’ Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive line: DE Calais Campbell (questionable), DT Dan Williams, DE Darnell Dockett
Linebackers: OLB Quentin Groves (questionable), MLB Daryl Washington, MLB Paris Lenon, OLB Sam Acho
Secondary: CB Patrick Peterson, CB William Gay, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes (questionable)
Falcons’ Defense (Base 4-3)
Defensive Line: DE Kroy Biermann, DT Jonathan Babineaux, DT Peria Jerry (probable), DE John Abraham (Probable)
Linebackers: WLB Sean Weatherspoon (Questionable), MLB Akeem Dent, SLB Stephen Nicholas
Secondary: CB Asante Samuel, CB Dunta Robinson, SS William Moore, FS Thomas DeCoud
Arizona’s Key Players
The number 1 key player for the Arizona Cardinals is without question rookie LT Nate Potter. He will be going against 4 time Pro Bowler John Abraham. This is a particular intriguing matchup because the Cardinals are putting all of their eggs into the Nate Potter Basket. If he does not work the Cardinals may have to sign somebody off the street.
The Cardinals are going to need somebody to get going on offense this week, but who could it be? Well, I think there is a future Hall of Fame receiver on this team. I believe his name is Larry Fitzgerald. I don’t care how they get this guy the ball. He needs to be targeted at least 12 times this game. Even if they only hookup 50 percent of those, it is still better than throwing to a group of receivers that seem to forget how to catch a ball on game day.
Finally, lets go to the defensive side of the ball. If Calais Campbell can’t go it will put a lot of pressure on OLB Sam Acho. He will need to step up his game. Acho has to contain the edge when he is playing the run and create chaos in the backfield when he is getting after quarterback.
Atlanta Key Players
I have already said that RB Michael Turner will be the Cardinals’ challenge of the week. The running back has struggled since his arrest earlier in the year. He is not even on pace to reach 1,000 yards. A number he has surpassed 3 out of the last 4 seasons. Turner will have to run hard this week so the Falcons can limit their mistakes against the number 2 passing defense in the NFL.
WR Roddy White will be going against the best player on the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals, Patrick Peterson. This would be my matchup of the game if I wasn’t so intrigued by the one between Potter and Abraham. White may not have the best game, but 5 catches for 60 plus yards is not out of the question. At times White may even have to play a little defense.
The last key player for the Falcons is on the defensive side of the ball, Kroy Biermann. The defensive end is going against RT Bobby Massie, one of the worst tackles in the league right now. Massie is improving, but I look for Biermann to have the best game out of the two defensive ends. Mostly because I think Potter wins his matchup for most of the game.
The Cardinals and Falcons are set to kick off on Sunday. This game is widely seen as an easy victory for Atlanta. However, with a turnover margin of plus four the Cardinals could be in this game. If not, this could be the last game QB John Skelton ever starts for his team. He needs to show that can win games in this league. This year, he has not done that.
The perfect storm needs to happen for the Cardinals to win this game. No turnovers, run the football well, and pass the ball efficiently. The Falcons fortunately play in a dome. The weather will not effect them.
Prediction: Cardinals’ fans will be begging for Tim Tebow. Cardinals 13, Falcons 31