By Matthew Asher
While a losing team can always second-guess their decisions in a loss, that serves no purpose. With the Falcons losing to the Cleveland Browns 26-24 on Sunday is a rough loss to swallow, the good news is that their next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, also suffered a 19-3 defeat against the Seattle Seahawks the same day.
All that being said, Arizona is a good team. Their only two losses this season came against least season’s Super Bowl teams and the loss to Denver took place with their then third-string quarterback at the helm. This doesn’t mean Atlanta doesn’t stand a chance, it just means they have to remember how good Arizona has been for the entire season and not just last week.
Drew Stanton may not be the leader in Arizona passing numbers, but he is the current starter. He’s completed about 53 percent of his throws for 1069 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions for a passer rating of 79.0. Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington are tied with 46 receptions and 2 touchdowns each. Fitzgerald has 658 yards and Ellington has 395. However the leader in touchdown receptions is John Brown with 5.
Ellington is also the team leader in every meaningful rushing statistic. He has run 196 times for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns. Nobody else on the team has more than 25 carries and nobody else has rushed for even 100 yards. This is the main reason Arizona has the second-worst rushing attack in the league, averaging just 78.4 yards a game.
The defense is what has given this Arizona team its 9-2 record. They allow just 17.7 points a game, the second stingiest this season. The main reason is the turnovers as Arizona is currently at plus-10 in this department, thanks largely to the secondary. The Cardinals have thrown just 6 interceptions but have picked off 15 with Antonio Cromartie, Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers tied with the lead at 3 each. Johnson and Patrick Peterson have both returned interceptions for touchdowns. Arizona has recorded 25 sacks this season. Alex Okafor and Calais Campbell lead the team with 6 sacks apiece.
Arizona is a tough team, but they’re definitely beatable. The Cardinals may have the second-best score preventing defense, but they have just the 18th ranked offense. Their quarterback bares a strong resemblance to Brian Hoyer: he’s not doing anything special but he’s also not making many mistakes. Their defense is exceptionally good at run prevention, something Atlanta’s offense doesn’t need to win a game. Arizona has the 25th ranked passing defense and on offense, the Cardinals also have the 25th ranked offense regarding total yards. Like most games in the NFL, this won can be won by either team. Atlanta needs to avoid mental mistakes, use smart clock management and remember that they are still in contention for the NFC South title if they continue to win games.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.