One game at a time. This has become the mantra for the 2-4 Atlanta Falcons following a devastating start that saw one of the NFC's elite teams from 2012 fall to to four of its first five opponents. This week the Falcons meet the Arizona Cardinals, who are aware of their problems at the quarterback position, but unable to solve it until next year's draft.
Meet the Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer was brought to Arizona in an April trade designed to give the team stability at the quarterback position. The Cardinals got an upgrade over the team's mess last season, but his inconsistent play paired with poor protection has forced the team to protect a short field on defense. Palmer has thrown 13 interceptions in seven games and only played once in 2013 without turning the ball over.
These turnovers have contributed to a lack of offensive scoring. The Cardinals are averaging just 19.0 points per game, 25th in the NFL. Issues on offense extend beyond the quarterback position to a lack of reliable running. Arizona is converting just 31 percent of third-down opportunities, averaging 3.5 yards per carry as a team.
Meet the Atlanta Falcons
It seemed like the Falcons' season would end with Julio Jones' injury, but the emergence of Harry Douglas at wide receiver could change the narrative. Douglas finished with a career-high 149 yards against the Buccaneers, but this wasn't his only impressive performance of the season. In two more games he surpassed 50 yards receiving as a third option, and could be an interesting player to watch in the second half of the season.
Realistically he's no replacement for Jones, and it's unlikely even elite play from Douglas can turn this season around. That being said, this is still a team capable of using its third-ranked passing offense to turn any game into a potential shootout, which will serve the Falcons well on Sunday.
Local Takes: Arizona Cardinals
The issue is that the one thing many are overlooking is the question we don't want to ask -- what if Fitz is simply not as good as he used to be? He is 30 years old. He works as hard as anyone out there. But is it time to start asking that question.
Local Takes: Atlanta Falcons
Communication. It all comes down to communication. I found Nolan's comments particularly telling. They're informative, inasmuch as they reveal his acute awareness of what can and what cannot help his players perform to the best of their ability. He's right: there's a fine line between providing instant feedback and smothering your guys. At least he's trying to strike that balance. With that said, coaching up a young defense isn't ever easy.
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Guess what? The Cardinals are favored at home vs. the Falcons! First time all year they are favored.— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) October 22, 2013
So now we're reading Steven Jackson's body language. I eagerly await the report on Jackson's chi.— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) October 23, 2013
The Cardinals are favored by 2.5 points, according to Odds Shark. Some outlets have the line as close as one point.