Now that the monkey is off their back, Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals will try to win their second game in a row when they return home this week to face the Atlanta Falcons. Kickoff will be at 4:05 EST on Sunday, October 13 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
This week’s NFL betting odds list the Falcons as 2.5-point favorites on the road. This game also has a rather ambitious over/under of 51.5 points.
As mentioned, the Cardinals finally scored their first win of the Kingsbury era last week, stealing a road win against the winless Bengals 26-23. Prior to that, Arizona had lost back-to-back games at home by double figures to the Panthers and Seahawks. In their defense, the Bengals are the only team they’ve played that has a losing record, so the schedule has been difficult. However, it’s tough to find much reason to be optimistic about the way the Kingsbury era has started.
With a 1-3-1 record, the Cardinals are already deep in the basement in what might be the best division in football. With back-to-back games against the Falcons and Giants, Arizona has a small window to get themselves back in the playoff picture. But they will surely have to win both games to have any hope of staying competitive in the NFC West this season.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are heading into the desert while nursing a three-game losing streak. Atlanta’s only win in Week 2 against the Eagles feels like a distant memory, especially after a 53-32 thumping at the hands of the Texans last week. In fairness, three of Atlanta’s four losses have come on the road. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re 1-4 and needed their owner to publicly state that head coach Dan Quinn isn’t going to be fired right now.
This week’s game with the Cardinals could be the last lifeline the Falcons get this year. They’ll come home for back-to-back games after this week, although those games will be against the Rams and Seahawks. If the Falcons can’t find at least a couple of wins in the next three weeks, the season could be all but over and the speculation on Quinn’s job status will heat up.
Do oddsmakers actually think the Falcons should be favored on the road? I’m as skeptical of Kingsbury and the Cardinals as the next person, but even I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at home against the 1-4 Falcons. Atlanta hasn’t proven that they can win on the road, so I’m not about to lay down any points for them. In a game that both teams need, I’ll gladly take my chances with the home underdog.
To me, this game is all about which team’s weaknesses are more vulnerable than the other team’s weaknesses. In my opinion, that honor belongs to the Atlanta defense, which gave up 53 points to the Texans last week. The Falcons have given up the second-most points in the NFL this season and have managed just five sacks in five games. The Atlanta pass rush couldn’t even take advantage of a Houston offensive line that’s been dreadful for the past two seasons. They were shredded by Houston’s offense and I fear a scaled-down version of that this week.
To be fair, the Arizona offense has some concerns as well. On the injury front, David Johnson, Christian Kirk, and Damiere Byrd are all listed as questionable this week. Johnson, in particular, would be a huge loss if he can’t play. But all three are among Arizona’s most important skill players outside of Larry Fitzgerald. However, if the Arizona offensive line doesn’t hold the Cardinals back because Atlanta’s pass rush is so inept, I like my chances with Kyler Murray. He was sacked just once last week against a bad Cincinnati defense and had arguably his best game, showcasing his talents as both a runner and passer.
Of course, the Atlanta offense can be potent as well. But I think a lack of balance from the Falcons could be a problem. With a young offensive line that has struggled this season, Devonta Freeman and the running game continue to have limited success. It’s all on the shoulders of Matt Ryan, who has taken 12 sacks and thrown seven interceptions in five games. Despite Arizona’s issues defending the pass this year, they can get after the quarterback with Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones. That should allow the Cardinals to create problems for an Atlanta offense that has relied solely on the pass this season.
All things considered, this should be a high-scoring game, so the over wouldn’t be a bad bet, even if it’s a little high for an NFL game. In a game between two bad defensive teams, I’ll give a slight edge to the home side. The Cardinals also be the more confident team after last week’s win. I don’t love this pick, but I’ll take my chance with a home underdog.