Coming off of their first loss of the season the Falcons return home today where wins have been plentiful though margins have been small. Atlanta (8-1) hosts Arizona after falling in New Orleans 31-27 last Sunday. The Birds are 4-0 at the Georgia Dome with each victory coming by six points or less. After starting the season unbeaten over their first four games, Arizona has lost five straight and returns to action after a much needed bye week.
It was unreasonable to expect the winning streak to continue for a Falcon team that ranks 26th in the league in rushing yards and 19th in total defense. Besides the Atlanta passing game, only a weak schedule and a plus ten turnover margin explains their success.
As for Arizona, their rushing attack is last in the league, and the passing offense is only slightly better, but the one thing the Cardinals do well is shut down their opponent’s aerial game. Arizona ranks second in the league in passing defense and has not allowed a quarterback to throw for more than 250 yards since Miami's Ryan Tannehill did so in week four.
The Cardinals have lost following their bye week each of the last two seasons. However, in 2009 after going winless in the preseason, and starting the year 1-2, after a week four bye Arizona won six of their next seven. In 2009 the Cardinals had Kurt Warner at quarterback. John Skelton is not Kurt Warner.
Skelton started the season opener against Seattle, got hurt, and Kevin Kolb came out of the bullpen to beat the Seahawks. Kolb took over the offense and notched wins over New England, Philadelphia, and Miami before losing at St. Louis and getting knocked out against Buffalo. Skelton went two of ten passing against the Bills in an overtime loss and has been a nightmare since. He ranks last in the league in QB Rating, has tossed two touchdowns while being intercepted five times, and ranks 31st in the NFL completing under 56-percent of his passes.
Even if Atlanta struggles to pass the ball, there is an opportunity for Falcon RB Michael Turner to improve upon his 3.8 yards per rush against Arizona's 24th ranked rushing defense. A conservative approach against a struggling Skelton and a Cardinal team averaging more points than only Jacksonville should be enough to get Atlanta back to the winning ways.