Week 11: Cardinals-Falcons preview

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Arizona at Atlanta
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Georgia Dome, Atlanta - TV: FOX; DirecTV: 704
*TV announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
*Keys to the game: Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton admits he has called a more conservative game plan during the first half of games as he keeps field position in mind. But with Arizona's offense struggling to score points during the team's five-game losing streak, Horton is expected to come out of the bye week with a more aggressive approach from the opening snap. That could lead to plenty of big plays in both directions. Falcons WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White will likely see significant man coverage as the Cardinals send rushers after QB Matt Ryan. The question becomes whether Arizona gets to Ryan before he finds one of his two stud wideouts gaining separation. The Cardinals' offense has suffered from a one-two punch of a poor running game exposing its weak pass protection. Arizona is minus its top two running backs and unlikely to do much damage on the ground. That puts an enormous burden on QB John Skelton behind extremely shaky pass protection.
*Matchup to watch - Cardinals TE Rob Housler vs. Falcons pass defense: With Todd Heap battling yet another injury, Housler has emerged as a consistent receiver who is third on the team with 24 receptions. He's no Jimmy Graham, who caught seven passes for 146 yards and a pair of scores against New Orleans last week. But that film can serve as a blueprint for Arizona to complement its toothless ground game with underneath passes to Housler and Jeff King to keep drives alive.
*Player spotlight - Cardinals OT Nate Potter: A seventh-round pick out of Boise State, Potter was too raw to be a viable option coming out of training camp. But with the tackles struggling mightily on both sides, Potter is expected to start in place of LT D'Anthony Batiste.
*Fast facts: The Cardinals held their opponents to a 27.2 touchdown percentage inside the red zone during their 4-0 start. That number has blown up to 66.6 during the team's five-game losing streak. ... Falcons RB Michael Turner has rushed for 3.0 yards per carry or less in five of nine games this season.
The Falcons' 4-0 home record this season has come by a combined 17 points. With the Cardinals' inept offense ill equipped to play from behind, Atlanta doubles that total in one game.
*Our pick: Falcons 33-16

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