The Atlanta Falcons will welcome the 4-5 Arizona Cardinals to the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The Falcons are coming off a bitter loss to the New Orleans Saints and might be looking for an opponent to take it out on.
On paper, the Arizona Cardinals might be just what the doctor ordered. Yet all the pieces are in place for a monumental upset.
Bye Week Blues
The Cardinals will be coming off their bye when they travel to Atlanta. This has been a problem before for the Falcons. With 10 days lead time, the woeful Carolina Panthers came into the Georgia Dome and took the Falcons down to the wire. It took a patented Matt Ryan fourth-quarter miracle to win the game.
A more fitting example is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders came into the Georgia Dome having not recorded a single interception. Coming off the bye week, the Raiders secondary handed Matt Ryan his worst game of the season, and picked him off three times. And like almost every other team, the Raiders defense shutdown Atlanta's ground game. The Raiders held the Falcons to a measly 45 yards rushing.
The Arizona Cardinals have had two weeks to study up on these games. They have had extra hours to pinpoint these weaknesses. Whether they have the talent to exploit them is the question.
Falcons' Mindset Is Key
The Atlanta Falcons suffered their first loss in the worst possible manner. In what was billed as a revenge game, the Falcons watched missed opportunities turn into a loss against their most bitter rivals. The week following the game against the Cardinals, the Falcons will travel to face another resurgent division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This makes the Arizona Cardinals the fluff in the middle of a hate sandwich.
The Falcons have the talent and the coaching to win this game easily. This is why the Falcons are a 10-point favorite. But being focused will be incredibly important. If the players are over-confident or over-zealous, this game could begin to slide away from the Falcons.
Atlanta's coaching staff could understandably want to save more exotic formations for Tampa Bay. But if they go too vanilla, it might allow the Cardinals to hang around until it is too late.
If the Falcons can use this game to sharpen their resolve, then this game might be just what the doctor ordered. But if they take it too lightly, this might be an upset in the making.