Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The Arizona Cardinals head to the Georgia Dome to take on the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons in a pivotal NFC matchup.
The Falcons got off to a red-hot start this season, winning four of their first five games. Since then Atlanta has fallen back to Earth, losing three of their last five. The Falcons currently lead the NFC South but a loss to the Cardinals on Sunday could hinder their path to a division title, as all the teams in the division are within two games of Atlanta.
The Falcons are coming off the bye, but their last game was a 24-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 13. The Eagles held the Falcons’ explosive offense in check, as quarterback Matt Ryan was contained to 267 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Julio Jones, meanwhile, had 10 catches for 135 yards, but was kept out of the end zone.
Week 12’s matchup will pit the Falcons’ third-ranked offense against the Cardinals’ first-ranked defense. We’ll keep you up to date on everything the Falcons do heading into what could be an entertaining game.
Its’ Behind Enemy Lines…
Saturday, November 26
• Keys to Victory: Falcons vs. Cardinals (AtlantaFalcons.com)
The Falcons are plus-three in the turnover margin, tied for eighth in the NFL. Coach Dan Quinn is looking for this margin to increase. So far, the Falcons have created 11 takeaways and have only turned it over eight times. Atlanta has forced six interceptions – a number they would like to see grow as the season continues, starting on Sunday. In Arizona’s five losses, they are minus-eight in the turnover margin.
• X-factor: Nickel back Brian Poole (MyAJC.com)
Poole, who made the team as an undrafted rookie, will find himself matched up with nine-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald at times. The Cardinals like to move Fitzgerald around and use him a lot out of the slot. When the Falcons are in man-to-man, Poole will have the dynamic Fitzgerald.
• Falcons embrace big picture: ‘Everything is in our control’ (MyAJC.com)
“You don’t have to shy away from it because I think it’s one thing to say, ‘Don’t worry about that’ or ‘Don’t talk about that’” Quinn said. “We recognize that in your (media) world you’re going to talk about it and we need to be prepared for that. But to be at our best in the long term, you’ve got to take care of the here and now.”
• Is Josh Perkins ready to step up at tight end? (TheFalcoholic.com)
The Falcons think he’s got the athletic ability, hands, and size to be a genuine contributor down the line, and with Tamme gone and Austin Hooper looking like the only true receiving threat the Falcons have at the position, Perkins is going to get a crack at contributing over the last six weeks of the season.
Friday, November 25
• Falcons’ Desmond Trufant (shoulder) game-time decision (ESPN)
Trufant missed Atlanta’s last game against the Philadelphia Eagles while dealing with a shoulder/pectoral injury. Trufant and punter Matt Bosher are listed as questionable.
• Falcons face Cardinals, believe best to come after bye week (Associated Press)
Running back Tevin Coleman insists he’ll be ready to go after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. When healthy, he teamed with Devonta Freeman to give the Falcons a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield.
• Deion Jones takes Falcons’ run defense personally (AJC.com)
Falcons rookie middle linebacker Deion Jones wants to set the tone for the run defense. “It’s just a matter of our mind-set and getting lined up and playing with great effort,” Jones said. “Having that mindset that no one else is going to run the ball on us. That’s pretty much it, you know.” The Falcons gave up a season-high 208 yards rushing against Philadelphia and have stewed about it over the bye week.
• Madden Simulation: AZvsATL goes down to the wire (AtlantaFalcons.com)
Johnson opened the sim with a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to cap off a lengthy drive. Shortly thereafter, Carson Palmer threw a TD pass to Jaron Brown; the Falcons responded with an Austin Hooper score and a Matt Bryant field goal, putting them within four points heading into the fourth quarter.
Wednesday, November 23
• Falcons sign punter Wile to 53-man roster (AJC.com)
Punter Matt Wile, who played at Michigan, was signed to the 53-man roster by the Falcons on Tuesday.
• Matt Ryan bracing for pressure coming from Cardinals (ESPN)
Ryan, who has been sacked 24 times through 10 games, was asked about the keys to coping with the blitz. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he’s seen five or more rushers on 110 of his 379 dropbacks this season, completing 59 of 100 passes for 926 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions (eight sacks) in those situations.
• Rested Falcons look to be explosive against Cardinals at home (ESPN)
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback welcomed last week’s bye after getting beat up in Philadelphia two weeks ago during a 25-14 loss to the Eagles. Despite the outcome, the Falcons remain in first place in the NFC South at 6-4 heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1), a team desperate for a win.
• Desmond Trufant, Tevin Coleman return to practice field ahead of Cardinals game (Thefalcoholic)
The weekend wound up being a little bleak for Falcons fans, given that most of the teams they’re worried about in the playoff hunt won, as did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s why we needed some good news, and by golly, we just got some.
• Quinn pleased with Falcons’ regard for the football (Atlantafalcons.com)
With Atlanta’s bye coming later in the season, Quinn had no shortage of tape to watch, giving himself an opportunity to get down to the nitty-gritty of what he’s pleased with so far and what he would like to see improvement in.
• Freeney: Cards will ‘be blitzing from every direction’ (Atlantafalcons.com)
Having spent most of 2015 with Arizona, DE Dwight Freeney knows a lot about its defensive personnel and scheme. He likens the Cardinals’ system to Dick LeBeau’s “Blitzburgh” D from the 90s, and right now, that approach is serving them well.
Tuesday, November 22
• Freeney on the Cardinals: ‘It’s going to be a tough challenge’ (AJC.com)
Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney has the best scouting report on the Arizona Cardinals.
Freeney played 11 games for the Cardinals last season and helped them reach the NFC championship game. The Falcons are set to face the Cardinals at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
• Falcons’ Dan Quinn pumped to get Desmond Trufant, Tevin Coleman back (ESPN)
Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn sounded rather optimistic about the progress of cornerback Desmond Trufant and running back Tevin Coleman as they returned to practice Monday off injuries.
• Atlanta Falcons rookie LB Deion Jones credits veteran leadership with helping him navigate tough transition (Thefalcoholic.com)
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones is trying very hard to impersonate a veteran. As a rookie middle linebacker, he’s got an exceptionally hard job. Given the responsibilities he’s been asked to shoulder, one might expect a pretty steep learning curve. But despite those expectations, Jones has played admirably through ten games. In fact, he’s exceeded expectations.
• This 6-4 feels a whole lot different for Atlanta Falcons (OnlineAthens.com)
At this point last season, the Falcons were also 6-4. But they had lost three games in a row — none to teams that would make the playoffs. They were already out of the division race, having fallen far behind a Carolina team that was 10-0 and would reach the Super Bowl.
• Undrafted Poole Impressed Quinn Early In Camp With His Competitive Nature (92.9 The Game)
Quinn praised Poole for having the technique and discipline it took to match up against receivers of different size, speed and ability. While that talent flashed to Quinn, what sold the Falcons’ head coach on Poole had everything to do with heart.
Monday, November 21
• A look at the development of Vic Beasley (AJC.com)
With the Falcons at 6-4 and on their bye week, let’s look at how the six players – defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley, running back Tevin Coleman, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, cornerback Jalen Collins, wide receiver Justin Hardy and defensive back Robenson Therezie — have fared this season.
• Falcons agree to 5-year deal with RT Schrader (ESPN)
The Atlanta Falcons and right tackle Ryan Schraeder agreed to terms on a five-year contract on Monday.
The deal is worth a maximum value of $33 million, a source told ESPN.
• Falcons need to protect home, Matt Ryan, in postseason quest (ESPN)
Of the top six NFC teams, the Falcons are the only one without a winning record at home (2-2). In order to change those fortunes, coach Dan Quinn team has to be prepared to keep quarterback Matt Ryan clean against a pair of teams capable of applying plenty of pressure.
• A lot of room to grow: A brief look at Atlanta’s defense through 10 weeks (Thefalcoholic.com)
Atlanta’s defense has excelled in some areas and really struggled in others, but most people agree that the Falcons defense is young, athletic, and inconsistent. We’re going to take a look at what this defense’s identity is, where they improved since last season, and where they still need to improve to become a good defensive unit.