By Shawn Lealos
The Atlanta Falcons were, at one time, the second best team in the NFC. However, they have only gone 2-3 in their last five games and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now only one game back now in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals went from being a playoff contender in 2015 to a struggling team this year that is falling quickly behind the Seattle Seahawks. Here is a look at the Arizona Cardinals' team profile as they prepare to face the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12.
Arizona Cardinals Season Record: 4-5-1
The Arizona Cardinals got off to a tough start in 2016, losing three of their first four games with Carson Palmer struggling with injuries. However, Palmer is healthier and they now sit in second place in the NFC West with a 4-5-1 record. The playoffs are not out of the question for Arizona, but they have to win most, if not all, of their final six games if they want to make it to the postseason.
Arizona Cardinals On Offense
Last season, the leader of the Cardinals' offense was Carson Palmer. This season, it is second-year running back David Johnson. Johnson ranks third in the NFL with 863 rushing yards, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarco Murray. Johnson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has 10 touchdowns on the ground and two more through the air. He is the biggest threat on the Cardinals offense against the Falcons' 16th ranked rushing defense.
Carson Palmer is not being asked to do as much thanks to Johnson. He has four 300-yard passing games this season, but ranks a very low 26th in QB rating, thanks to 10 interceptions and only 13 touchdowns. Palmer still has future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is on pace for another 1,000-yard season. But, only John Brown has more than 30 receptions outside of Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, limiting what the Cardinals offense can do.
Arizona Cardinals On Defense
The one area that the Arizona Cardinals are excelling at is on defense. They rank second in the NFL in total defense and it was just four weeks ago that they held the powerful Seattle Seahawks offense to just two field goals in a tie.
However, they gave up 30 points in two of their last three games and look like they are slipping on D as the offense struggles. Chandler Jones leads the team with eight sacks while the defense has an impressive nine interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. Sadly, the Cardinals offense has turned the ball over 17 times, almost nullifying the turnovers by their defense.
Arizona Cardinals Players To Watch
David Johnson – The Carson Palmer playing this season is not the same quarterback who was an MVP-candidate last year. However, David Johnson is turning into one of the top running backs in the NFL and will really push the Falcons' rush defense while trying to eat up the clock.
Chandler Jones – The only way that the Arizona Cardinals can stop Matt Ryan is by hitting him hard and often. Chandler Jones not only has a team-leading eight sacks, but he also has three tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Matt Ryan doesn't throw interceptions, but the Cardinals can still limit his success through the air. It all starts up front with Chandler Jones.
The Atlanta Falcons may have stumbled lately, but it looks like they are going to make the playoffs this season. This game is an important one when it comes to playoff positioning and a possible home field game or two for Atlanta. Arizona has to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but they have little chance against the Falcons.
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