Happy Thanksgiving day two for people like me... Smart people.
While you get out of your food coma though, enjoy the smooth sounds of the Atlanta Falcons SB Nation blog from their main David Choate as he explains what the Arizona Cardinals are heading into on Sunday.
1. Matt Ryan has the Falcons offense as the best in the NFL. Is it Ryan, Shanahan or the combination of both?
It's definitely a combination of both, plus a rebuilt supporting cast. Ryan has had his finest year as a pro, and looks both more comfortable moving in the pocket and more willing to take shots downfield than ever before. He has been enabled by Shanahan, who has emphasized a scheme that feeds Julio Jones, gives Ryan speedy options to work with, and until recently have provided all the pass protection a quarterback could desire.
The supporting cast really was key, too. Adding Alex Mack gave the Falcons one of the best centers in the league, Mohamed Sanu has been a solid second option, and Taylor Gabriel has been an absolute burner at receiver. Couple that with Tevin Coleman's rapid, marked improvement as a pass catcher, and you've got a recipe for success the Falcons have been cooking with for months.
2. How will Tevin Coleman change what the Falcons do on offense (If he is healthy)?
He changes everything. The problem with Tevin Coleman is this: You have to cover Julio Jones, often with two players, and you have to account for Mohamed Sanu, speedy Taylor Gabriel, and the team's tight ends. If Tevin Coleman lines up out wide--or even if he's just running a route out of the backfield--he's likely to be matched up with a linebacker. There are basically no linebackers in the NFL who can outrun him in a straight line, and he can make one cut and leave that guy in the dust. You have to be able to dedicate more resources to stopping him, but because Atlanta still has other legitimate weapons, you probably can't.
Once Coleman gets the ball, too, he's gone. That's sort of problematic for defenses.
3. Vic Beasley is coming of age and D.J. Humprhies is not doing great, is this another multi sack game for Beasley?
I think it very well may be. Beasley looks faster, stronger, and better across the board than he did in 2015, but an underrated aspect of his sack total is how often he's been able to clean up a play. He gets around the edge quickly, and when Dwight Freeney or Grady Jarrett has flushed the quarterback toward him, Beasley almost always gets home. This is just a better pass rush than it has been in the past, and Beasley can turn slow-footed tackles into turnstiles.
4. Who gets to deal with Fitz?
It depends on where Fitz lines up. Desmond Trufant may shadow him a bit if he's healthy enough to play, but if he's operating out of the slot, Fitz is likely to see some Robert Alford and Brian Poole. Alford is a gambler and he's not very tall, but he's one hell of an athlete and a very aggressive player, while Poole has been impressive for a UDFA. I don't feel great about anyone but Trufant covering him, for obvious reasons.
5. Are the Falcons the real deal in the NFC South?
As close to a real deal as you can be in one of the most flawed divisions in football, sure. I do think the Falcons are currently the best team in the division, and the one best equipped to win it, even if their defense is going to be a huge limiting factor the rest of the way and certainly in the postseason. The Panthers have just fallen apart a bit, and the Buccaneers and Saints are both very flawed teams in their own right.
BONUS: The Falcons win, I think. Arizona is a team I have feared for a long time, but with some of your struggles in the passing game and defensively, I think Atlanta can and will triumph. I've got 35-27, Atlanta.