Happy Friday one and all.
Like the Arizona Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons can be an often forgotten NFL franchise. We talked with Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic to see what is going on in Atlanta and what to expect on Sunday.
1. Is Arthur Smith safe no matter what?
100%. Arthur Smith isn’t even on the hot seat at this point. Ownership, management, and the coaching staff are all on the same page with regards to the Falcons. This is a 3-year rebuild, and they’re currently in Year 2. The priority for this season was taking a few shots on QBs (Mariota, Ridder) while clearing out the awful salary cap situation left by the previous regime. They’ve certainly succeeded in doing that, as Atlanta is likely to have upwards of $83M in cap space for 2023 after the obvious cuts are made. Patience is key in 2022, but Smith will be expected to make the playoffs in 2023.
2. Desmond Ridder is 0-2 in his two starts, does he get another year, or should the Falcons explore other options with their top ten pick?
We’ll see how the final two games go. I’m not a big proponent of “QB wins”, to start, but Ridder clearly hasn’t dazzled in his first two games. Against the Ravens, he definitely looked better and was the victim of some bad calls (and another untimely fumble by Drake London). If he continues on that trajectory to close out the season, I think Atlanta wants to give him the job in 2023. Outside of Bryce Young, I don’t love the QBs at the top of this class, so I’m not expecting the Falcons to draft one. They could also make a big move via trade, as Lamar Jackson would be a perfect fit in this offense. Ultimately, I think the team signs a veteran to either compete with Ridder or provide experience as the backup. A reunion with Ryan Tannehill, if he’s released by the Titans, could make a lot of sense.
3. Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson have spearheaded a good rushing attack, is that design, offensive line, running backs or a combo of all three?
It’s really everything coming together for this run game. Last season, Atlanta was the 31st-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. They’ve made a miraculous turnaround thanks to enormous improvements in run blocking, and it’s even more impressive because the personnel was largely unchanged. Chris Lindstrom has continued to improve and is now the top guard in the NFL per PFF, while Kaleb McGary is enjoying a career year at right tackle. Meanwhile, Tyler Allgeier has come on strong to close the season. He’s taken over the RB1 role and looks awesome, both as a runner and receiver. Patterson was excellent to start the season but hasn’t quite been the same since his injury. Arthur Smith is also clearly a gifted run game coordinator. Perhaps even more impressive, the Falcons are having all this success on the ground despite teams largely selling out to stop it. Atlanta’s pass game hasn’t presented much of a threat thus far, though things are improving with Ridder.
4. Who are some names Cardinals fans should know on defense?
Everyone knows Grady Jarrett, and he’s still the stalwart on the defensive line. A.J. Terrell struggled a bit to open the season, but has been back at his All Pro level over the past five guys. Rookie Arnold Ebiketie has emerged as the team’s most productive pass rusher, which isn’t really saying much, while fellow rookie Troy Andersen has taken over one of the starting linebacker spots. Aside from them, this defense is basically held together with duct tape. There’s been minimal cap dedicated to this side of the ball due to the aforementioned salary cap troubles, and it shows.
5. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Atlanta Falcons as four-point favorites heading into this weekend, are you on the Falcons side?
While Atlanta losing this game probably all-but-guarantees the Falcons a top-5 pick, I’m rooting for Desmond Ridder to have a great game and for the team to pull off the win on Sunday. I do think Atlanta is in a better place than the Cardinals right now, but I respect Colt McCoy’s ability a lot more than Trace McSorley. So if he’s back, I do expect Arizona to have success in the passing game. I’ll go with Atlanta winning a close one, 23-20.