This Saturday at 7pm EST, the Atlanta Falcons, reigning NFC champions, will face off against the Arizona Cardinals, who struggled to get their wings off the ground last season after finished 6-7-1.
Though this game takes place in the somewhat-unimportant preseason, it will be (whether they like it or not) an important test against one of the league's most formidable offenses. The Cardinals’ defense did not shine too great during their match last Sunday, and that’s against the young Bears (an average age of just 26 years old) who have yet to show that they can get the ball moving consistently.
Obviously both teams in that matchup were putting in their second and third stringers, but it still shows that the Bears were ready for a fight and the Falcons offense is ready to go as well.
Though they did lose their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers, they brought in Steve Sarkisian, former head coach at USC and analyst for Alabama, who ended up going to the National Championship against Clemson last year, where Sarkisian called plays.
It looks like Atlanta’s offense is going to be able to pick up where they left off last season. Matt Ryan is already looking excellent out on the field, throwing 7/9 for 89 yards, with a passer rating of 144.9. Obviously this isn’t going to be a perfect assessment of Matt Ryan, but it looks to me that he isn’t going to do any worse than his amazing performance last season.
That being said, the Falcons are 0-2 in their preseason, with only a single passing touchdown coming for Matt Ryan so far. Their only other touchdowns (2) coming from the young backup RB Terron Ward, who is in his 3rd season with Atlanta. So, it looks like Atlanta’s backup offense isn’t looking to hot at this point.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are sitting pretty with 7 total touchdowns, four of them coming from passes from Carson Palmer (with a passer rating of 101.7), Drew Stanton (95.1), and Blaine Gabbert (88.2).
Though Gabbert has lowest passer rating of the bunch, he has been looking really fresh out there with his new team, especially during the Bears game where he scored himself a rushing touchdown, something that we would never see from Carson Palmer.
Conversely, David Johnson (the Cardinal’s star RB) hasn’t had his chance to show us what he’s got. He’s only run for 19 yards, which is not the David Johnson that we have seen in the past. But, this could be due to Bruce Arians’ reluctance to put David Johnson in.
The Cardinal’s defense isn’t looking especially amazing at this point, but not bad either. Their defense leads their opponents in combined tackles and tackle assists, while falling short 2 - 8 in the sack department.
Tyrann Mathieu has already gotten an interception for 52 yards, and it’ll be exciting to see how well he’s going to play in the coming games and onward into the regular season.
So, where does this leave us? I’d say the Cardinals’ have a pretty good chance of coming away with another win, but first they're going to have to overcome the Falcon’s starting offense, and the fact that they don’t have a home field advantage this time around.
The Falcons’ second and third string offense hasn’t looked great early. The Falcons have been able to move the ball, but unable to convert those yards into points. As long as the Cardinals defense can hold their own against the Falcons top tier offense and the Cardinals can come out of this game looking very strong. Stay tuned for more coverage from the Revenge of the Birds staff in these next few days!