1. Establish the run.
This is something you normally would not have to tell an Atlanta Falcons team to do but now that they are more apt to pass first instead of run, it is necessary. Arizona has show itself to be susceptible to the run as they are ranked 23rd. Atlanta needs to come out in and hit the Cardinals in the mouth with the running game and let them know they do plan on matching their physicality. The other reason Atlanta needs to establish the run is so they can prove to themselves they can effectively run the ball. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers struggled mightily against the run last week, so this is a great chance for redemption. Not to mention, come playoff time you need to be able to run the ball effectively enough to keep your opponent on honest.
2. Protect Matt Ryan.
The Cardinals have shown a propensity for putting pressure on the quarterback and getting sacks. Even though their offense struggles, Arizona’s defense plays hard every snap. They will look to come after Matt Ryan early and often. Ryan is a great quarterback who thrives on rhythm and timing so Atlanta’s offensive line does a poor job of protecting him, it could lead to a long day for a Falcons team who already allows teams to hang around at home.
3. Feature Jacquizz Rodgers.
Turner’s game status is uncertain as he is dealing with a groin injury but even if he plays he more than likely will not be at full strength. Let’s face groin injuries hurt and can take a while to heal depending on their severity. That being the case, Atlanta should look to increase its offensive package for Jacquizz Rodgers. Turner’s sidekick had a great game against the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago and actually was instrumental in Atlanta preserving their win. Atlanta should look to use him in that same capacity with runs that allow Rodgers to cut back and short passes to the outside where he can use his speed. Reality is, the Falcons offense is more catered towards Rodgers than Turner anyway.
4. Get pressure on John Skelton.
This is pretty much a no brainer. John Skelton is a nice guy with okay skills but he definitely is not going to scare anybody. Atlanta should look to blitz him early in the game as much as possible to break up any rhythm he might establish with his favorite target, Larry Fitzgerald. The more Atlanta can rattle Skelton the worse his game will become and the quicker the Falcons can notch their ninth victory.
5. Forget about last week.
It seems like a small thing but it may be the most important. Atlanta needs to forget about last week’s loss to their rival, the New Orleans Saints. Yeah, they lost a close game. Yeah, they lost their first game but it’s over with, no move on. Nobody likes losing but at least now Atlanta no longer has to play not to lose, they can simply play to win. They may never admit it but the pressure of being the only undefeated team left affected them more than they let on. Now that they have lost a game they are no different than everyone else which is kind of how the Atlanta Falcons like it.