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coleryan
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Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals: Preview and Pick

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On 10/22/2013 06:07 PM in NFL
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals: Preview and Pick

The National Football League schedule for week eight features a game between two teams that have struggled on the season. The Atlanta Falcons were supposed to be contenders for the Super Bowl, but they have failed miserably up to this point. They will get a chance at redemption when they go up against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have a new quarterback but they have not had much luck up to this point.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals Odds

The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Cardinals listed as (-2.5) point favorites, but the bettors are staying away. In fact up to this point over 70 percent of the wagers are on the Dirty Birds. This line has yet to change but it could go lower as kickoff approaches. Check out the top rated online sportsbooks before placing a wager on this game.

Although the Falcons were missing plenty of offensive weapons, they still played a great game. Matt Ryan's top two targets Sunday were Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers. Douglas was targeted seven times for just the fourth time in his career with Ryan and Rodgers was targeted a career-high nine times. Ryan was 15-of-16 targeting the duo (7-of-7 to Douglas) including all three touchdowns. The Cardinals will enter this game with extra rest after playing on a Thursday night.

They will need better play at quarterback if they hope to win this game. Carson Palmer has 5 straight games with multiple interceptions. The last player to throw multiple interceptions in 5 straight games was Vinny Testaverde in 2000. Although both teams have struggled this season, the Cardinals have played the better defense and they have a incredible home field advantage that is often underrated.

The latest football betting trends for this game indicate that both teams have some positive trends, heading into this game. The Falcons are 15-7-1 against the spread (ATS) when playing a team with a losing record, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games against a team with a losing home record and 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games on grass.

The Cardinals are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after accumulating less than 250 total yards in their previous game, 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing more than 30 points in their previous game and 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
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10/23/2013 01:33 PM
Those of you who have been holding your breath, waiting patiently for Steven Jackson to return can start to exhale this week as head coach Mike Smith announced Monday that the running back is expected to practice this week.

How much or if he’ll be healthy enough to play Sunday against Arizona is still in question, but for Jackson, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the first quarter of a Week 2 matchup against St. Louis, any progression at this point is good news.

“This is all based on what the doctor will say in terms of how much he’ll participate in practice as we go through the week, but when we left out of here on Friday, everything was very good in terms of (Jackson’s) testing and the opportunity to return to play,” Smith said during his Monday press conference. “We are anticipating to get him in and see how he handles it. You’ve got to go in and take it one day at a time when you’re coming back from an injury.”

Smith added that the Falcons won’t have Jackson participating in a full practice when the team gets preparations for Sunday’s game at Arizona underway Wednesday. We’ll have much more on Jackson as the week progresses and he gets back onto the field.
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10/23/2013 01:34 PM
Bruce Arians gave his team Saturday and Sunday off following Thursday’s 34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but he’s expecting the Cardinals to return to practice Monday ready to work.

Arizona will don pads Monday and Wednesday this week, the one time during the season they’re allowed pads twice in one week per the collective bargaining agreement. With the extra day in pads, Arians will also have extra opportunities to evaluate his younger players, which means there’s the possibility of him reshuffling the lineup in coming weeks.

One player Arians will take a long look at it is second-year right tackle Bobby Massie.

On Thursday, Massie was active for the first time this season, but with extra work in practice this week, he could see some reps Sunday against Atlanta.

“We’d like to get him some action,” Arians said. “[Starting right tackle] Eric [Winston] had been injured a little bit. We felt like [Massie] might be ready to go and I like to get him out there some.”

Last year as a rookie, Massie was thrown into the starting lineup at right tackle to start the season after Levi Brown’s season-ending injury forced the Cardinals to reshuffle the line. There’s no hiding Massie’s struggles. He gave up 13 sacks and 35 quarterback hurries in the first eight weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, but Massie also made the greatest improvements from anyone on the line.

In the final eight weeks, he didn’t give up a sack and allowed just seven quarterback hurries. He began to transition that progress into 2013, lining up at right tackle during OTAs and minicamp, but the Cardinals signed Winston on the first day of training camp and he slid into the starting job.

“I want to play,” Massie said. “I progressed a lot better from what I did from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and I felt I still can do that now. I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I can play. It’s not my decision.”

Two other players Arians will look at on the offensive line this week are guards Nate Potter and Earl Watford, who hasn’t seen the field this season despite being active for two of Arizona’s seven games. Arians said Watford is “getting there.”

But even before giving him extra snaps in practice, Arians got a chance on Thursday to see Potter, who replaced injured right guard Daryn Colledge for half the game.

“Nate struggled inside,” Arians said. “And the same things he struggled with in training camp was power but he works his tail off. We used him some at tight end as a big tight end. He did OK there. But inside at guard he doesn’t have enough experience.”

Over the next three weeks, Arians will be evaluate and re-evaluate his roster, looking for ways to improve on the rollercoaster of struggles this season, especially on the offensive line.

After Sunday’s game against Atlanta, Arizona has a bye and plays again Nov. 10 against Houston.

But not all is lost this season at 3-4, Arians said. Some of the goals had to be rewritten, but the Cardinals are still focused on the postseason.

“We had a goal to not lose at home,” Arians said. “We have to reset it. Don’t lose again at home. Like we do every day, just take it day to day. Look at the tape, correct the mistakes, accept the coaching that goes on -- not criticism, its coaching, so we don’t make the same mistakes.

“Our goal is still in sight and that’s to get to the playoffs.”
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10/24/2013 03:32 PM
With their longest losing streak in six seasons behind them, the Atlanta Falcons appear ready to move forward with confidence.

Hoping to avoid their first 0-3 road start since 2007, the Falcons look to win consecutive games for the first time this season while trying to hand the Arizona Cardinals a third straight defeat Sunday.

Minus injured stars Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, Atlanta (2-4) used some bye-week adjustments to snap a three-game slide by posting a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay last Sunday.

"We talked during the bye week, if you had a Falcons logo on your helmet you were expected to step up and make plays," coach Mike Smith told the team's official website. "Whether a young guy, old guy, we all needed to do that, and I thought we did that.

"We are going to continue to work."

Harry Douglas caught seven passes for a career-high 149 yards with a touchdown, and Jacquizz Rodgers had eight receptions out of the backfield for 46 yards and two scores.

Defensively, the Falcons used a deeper rotation across the line to help record three sacks. Defensive back Thomas DeCoud gave Atlanta a boost early with a fumble he returned 30 yards for the opening touchdown.

"Confidence is a beast," said tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had two catches for 30 yards after recording 22 for 246 in the previous two contests.

"Hopefully this is something we can build on."

While it's uncertain if White will miss a second straight game due to hamstring and ankle problems, Jackson hopes to return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him the last four contests.

Jackson has carried the ball 14 times for 77 yards in a little over four quarters of action since signing with the Falcons in March.

"You've got to go in and take it one day at a time when you're coming back from an injury," Smith said.

Though Rodgers is a versatile threat who leads the team with four overall touchdowns, Atlanta rushed for 18 yards on 18 attempts last Sunday. The Falcons' 410 rushing yards and 115 carries are both the fewest in the NFL.

"As a group, running backs have to run harder," said Rodgers, who has averaged 2.7 yards per carry in the last two games. "Everybody's got to be on the same page, blocking the right man, and us as running backs have to get downhill faster, so we can be efficient going down the stretch."

With or without Jackson and facing ex-Falcon linebacker John Abraham, Atlanta might have a good chance to improve its run game against an Arizona team that's allowed 284 rushing yards in consecutive losses to San Francisco and Seattle. The Cardinals (3-4) gave up an average of 79.0 in their first five contests.

"We've done a good job of not giving up a lot yards on the ground, but things happen," Abraham said after recording two sacks and forcing two fumbles during last Thursday's 34-22 loss during which the Seahawks rushed for 135 yards.

The Cardinals' own rushing woes continued with a season-low 30 yards versus Seattle. Arizona is tied for 26th, averaging 3.5 yards per carry, right behind Atlanta (3.6).

"Anytime you put yourself in position where you've got to pass in this league and they know what's coming, you're going to be in for a long day," tackle Eric Winston said.

Carson Palmer has not helped matters by throwing 11 of his 13 interceptions in the last five weeks. He also was sacked seven times against the Seahawks after absorbing 13 in the previous five contests.

"Everybody needs to step up their game, mainly me being the quarterback - that's your job," said Palmer, whose 69.5 passer rating is better only than Brandon Weeden, Eli Manning, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman.

"We've got to keep growing."

Larry Fitzgerald, meanwhile, continues to play through hamstring issues. The star receiver was held to two receptions for 17 yards last week after catching six passes for a season-high 117 and a TD during the 32-20 loss to the 49ers on Oct. 13.

Fitzgerald managed one catch for 11 yards during last season's 23-19 loss at Atlanta. He had 13 receptions for 184 yards in his previous two games against the Falcons, including 101 and a TD during the Cardinals' 30-24 wild-card playoff victory Jan. 3, 2009, in the teams' most recent meeting in Arizona.

Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in that playoff defeat, but has won both ensuing games against the Cardinals. The Falcons prevailed in last season's meeting despite Ryan throwing no TDs and a career-high five picks.
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10/25/2013 04:44 PM
The Arizona Cardinals offense have been awful at starting games, save the opening drive they had in New Orleans. It has been a continuing problem for two seasons now.

The team has scored a total of 14 first quarter points in seven games.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was asked about why that is.

"I think one thing is doing a better job of knowing what plays are coming up," he told the media on Wednesday. "We script pretty well the beginning of games and just not having any mental errors on those first 15, 20, 30 plays and just executing on those plays, and not having one little mental error here, one little blunder there and being efficient in those first plays of the game."

So is it because of the new offense everyone is in?

"When you're starting over from scratch with new players, new staff, new playbook, there's going to be some mental errors -- that's just part of the deal," he explained. "But regardless, we're professionals, that's our job not to let that happen regardless of any excuses that can be made."

Mental errors have been a huge problem so far. It was a problem last year. The offensive line misses protections, the receivers don't run to the right spot. The quarterback doesn't make presnap reads. Running backs aren't on the right side or aren't there to take the handoff.

If there is any part of the offense that should be perfectly executed, it should be the script to start the game, but that still plagues the Cardinals.

Either the coaches are asking too much of the players or the players are not putting in enough work or are just aren't smart enough to get it.

Whatever the case, Atlanta is a fast starter. They have outscored their opponents 41-3 in the first quarter. If that trend continues, it will be a long game. The team cannot rely on a shaky offense to climb out of a significant hole.

Simply put, changes need to be made if the players can't even get the offensive script right, never mind have to react to things later in the game.

If that can't happen, then we are overestimating the talent or the coaching...and we already have seen a coaching change in the last year.
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10/25/2013 04:47 PM
Matt Ryan had perhaps his worst game as a professional when he faced Arizona last season.

The Atlanta quarterback, though, is coming off one of his better games of this year and will try to lead the Falcons to a second straight victory on Sunday in a road matchup with John Abraham and the Cardinals.

Ryan is coming off a 273-yard, three-touchdown performance in last Sunday's 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one that produced a career-high 148.4 passer rating.

It was a much-needed victory for Atlanta, which was coming off its bye week having lost three in a row. It remained third in the NFC South, a game back of second-place Carolina.

"I think our preparation and the sense of urgency has been pretty good all year," Ryan said after the victory. "I think, specifically coming off of the bye, I think people were refreshed mentally, physically, emotionally and I think we had a great week of practice."

Ryan had a solid game despite missing his top two wide receivers. Julio Jones was placed on injured reserve during the off week because of a foot injury and Roddy White's nagging hamstring and ankle injuries finally forced him out of the lineup for the first time in his career.

White had played in 133 straight games and joined No. 1 running back Steven Jackson (thigh) on the sidelines. However, running back Jacquizz Rodgers caught eight passes and two touchdowns out of the backfield and Harry Douglas hauled in seven catches for a career-high 149 yards with a score.

"Harry had a career day," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. "Harry's role changed two weeks ago because of our situation at wide receiver. He stepped up to the plate and did an extremely good job today."

The Falcons also picked up a defensive score after safety William Moore's strip-sack was picked up by safety Thomas DeCoud, who went 30 yards for a score. That helped set the tone as Atlanta improved to 5-1 under Smith following the bye week.

Atlanta will play its next two on the road looking to reverse a trend in this series that has seen the home team win six straight. The Falcons kept that streak going last season with a 23-19 victory over Arizona despite Ryan's career-high five interceptions.

Five different Cardinals got their hands on Ryan picks, including linebacker Daryl Washington, who added a game-high 11 tackles.

Ryan posted the second-lowest passer rating of his career at 40.5, but Arizona managed just 178 yards of total offense, 137 of that coming on the ground.

Abraham had two sacks and a forced fumble for the Falcons, who he will play against for the first time since joining the Cardinals this offseason. He was released by Atlanta on March 1.

Arizona is looking to avoid a third straight setback ahead of its bye week and was defeated 34-22 by the Seattle Seahawks last Thursday night. Carson Palmer struggled with a pair of interceptions that were turned into Seahawks points and was also sacked seven times.

The Cardinals were held to 234 yards of offense, including just 30 on the ground. Running back Rashard Mendenhall ran for a score, but was limited to 22 yards on 13 carries.

Abraham logged his first two sacks of the season and both forced fumbles as well, but the Cards defense allowed a pair of long touchdown drives early in the game, contributing to what head coach Bruce Arians called a sluggish start.

"Everybody needs to step up their game, mainly me being the quarterback. That's your job. But we've got to keep growing. There's not enough things (that) got better, obviously," said Palmer.

This marks Arizona's second straight home game and it will also host Houston on Nov. 10 after its off week.

The Cardinals have won both of their previous meetings with the Falcons at University of Phoenix Stadium, but Atlanta has won two straight and six of the past eight meetings overall, including playoffs.

- WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Abraham had a very successful stint with the Falcons after they acquired him from the New York Jets before the 2006 campaign. He had a club-record 68 1/2 sacks over his seven seasons in Atlanta, including a career-high and franchise single-season best 16 1/2 in 2008.

The 35-year-old added another club record last season with six forced fumbles and has logged 124 sacks and 46 forced fumbles over his career.

Atlanta, though, decided to part ways with the veteran and the Cardinals brought him on board to add depth to their 3-4 scheme. Abraham has been forced into a bigger role than expected however because of injuries to Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander.

"It is part of football, but your roster changes every year," said Smith. "There is a new dynamic to your team and it changes from year to year. John was a very integral part of the success we had here. We know he's an outstanding edge rusher.

"I know he is looking forward to competing against us, and I know we are looking forward to competing against him."

Abraham will try to make things difficult for his former teammate Ryan, who improved to 34-2 last weekend when he starts and posts a passer rating of 100 or better.

Without White and Jones, Ryan played it safe with Rodgers out of the backfield and also made plays with Douglas, who has made 23 catches this season and has appeared in all but one game since getting drafted by Atlanta in the third round in 2008.

The Falcons do come in ranked 30th in rushing offense at 68.3 yards per game and ran for just 18 yards as a team last week. They have rushed for over 100 yards in a game just once this season and have not had Jackson since he suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter of a Week 2 matchup with St. Louis.

Jackson did return to practice in a limited role on Wednesday, though White and running back Jason Snelling (ankle) did not.

The Cardinals rank seventh in the NFL in run defense, giving up just 97.0 YPG, but yielded 135 on the ground to Seattle.

Arizona's 29th-ranked offense struggled against the talented Seahawks as the offensive line was dominated and the run game again failed to get going. Left tackle Bradley Sowell in particular had trouble against the pass rush as Palmer was pressured all game.

"I got to give him credit for standing," Arians said of Palmer. "When you get hit that many times and you're still standing in there, looking back neither interception was his fault whatsoever. Overall he protected the football like he needed to. We've got to make better plays."

Arians doesn't have many options to turn to on the offensive line, which lost 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper for the year when the guard suffered a fractured leg in the preseason.

That line goes against a Falcons front that went back to deploying a rotation that excelled during Abraham's tenure there. Rookies Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga earned snaps against the Bucs thanks to solid play.

Smith decided to go with the rotation for last weekend's game, something he didn't think the young guys were ready for at the onset of the schedule.

"I think it does a lot of things. It keeps our guys fresher," Smith said of the rotation. "We're all about competition. I think it's very important there is a very competitive situation each and every week. I think we have that right now; I think we're creating that right now in the defensive front.

"It will definitely help us down the long road in terms of the older players, the wear and tear on their body, as we get into the second half of this season."

Atlanta's secondary did struggle against Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson, who was targeted 22 times and made 10 catches for 138 yards and two scores. The unit faces another elite receiver this weekend in Larry Fitzgerald.

"I think it will be very good for our young players. Vincent is little bit bigger and taller than Larry, but he is a big physical wide receiver," said Smith. "I anticipate they will move Larry around just like they did Vincent to try and get the match ups they think are favorable. All of our guys are going to have to be prepared to line up against him."

Fitzgerald was limited to just two catches against Seattle and has made 32 receptions for 422 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Teammate Michael Floyd has helped with 31 receptions for 403 yards.

Fitzgerald will be 30 years and 57 days old this Sunday and is four catches shy of becoming the youngest player to ever reach 800. Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten made his 800th catch at 30 years, 238 days old.
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10/26/2013 10:31 AM
Atlanta ruling out receiver Roddy White is big, especially considering that Julio Jones is already out for the season.

For the Cardinals, running back Rashard Mendenhall is doubtful with a toe injury.
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