Big Red Blog: Underdog role again for Arizona

Sunday's matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons looks like a one-sided affair but it could be closer than the experts think.

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Underdog role again for Arizona

Posted by Brad Wilbricht
Thursday, November 15 - 10:30 AM

On paper, Sunday's matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons looks like a one-sided affair. Arizona, however, is coming off a bye week and should have a sense of urgency knowing that its season will be on the line each week from now until the end of the regular season.

The Cardinals cruised to a 4-0 start and looked liked a surprising playoff contender in the NFC. Now mired in a five-game losing streak, Arizona has come down to Earth and must regain its focus.

Meanwhile, the Falcons were dreaming of an undefeated season but those dreams ended a week ago following a 31-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The reality of the situation is that the Cardinals we never as good as their 4-0 start but they also aren't as bad as their current five-game skid. On the flip side, Atlanta is still the class of the NFC with a record 8-1, but the Falcons have been far from dominating and some would even describe the team as vulnerable in areas.

The key for Arizona will be limiting the success of QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta passing game. The Cardinals have been excellent in pass defense this year, ranking 2nd in the NFL allowing 195 yards per game, but the trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez could be the toughest they face all year.

The bye week provided CB Greg Toler time to get healthy but Arizona also needs Patrick Peterson and Jamell Fleming to continue to progress. William Gay will also be one to watch as he could find himself lined up in the slot against Gonzalez throughout the afternoon.

The concerns don't stop there for the Cardinals, as they've been offensively challenged since QB Kevin Kolb went down with an injury in Week 6. John Skelton has done a fair job in relief but Skelton, who was named the starter at the beginning of the season, must limit his mistakes and find ways to make plays down the field.

The Falcons pass defense is giving up 236 yards per contest, which ranks 19th in the league, and has been prone to give up large chunks of yardage. Skelton should have chances in the vertical passing game and will look to get wideout Larry Fitzgerald involved early and often.

Skelton's chances of success would be increased with help from the Arizona running game which has sputtered due to injuries – both at running back and along the offensive line.

Beanie Wells is still at least a week away from returning, leaving the onus once again on LaRod Stephens-Howling. When healthy, Stephens-Howling has proved to be a serviceable lead back, and should find some open holes against an Atlanta defense that ranks 25th in the NFL against the run allowing 130 yards per game.

Although the Cardinals were forced to sit around and think about their current losing streak, the bye week probably came at a good time as they should be ready and rested for a road tilt with the Falcons. Arizona could also catch Atlanta with a bit of a hangover following its first loss of the season.

All things considered, this will be a closer game than the experts predict, but the Cardinals will come up just short on the road.

Prediction: Atlanta 27 Arizona 23

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Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at

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Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at Recommended Stories

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