Game Predictions – Cardinals @ Falcons

This game should be one of the best on the early slate tomorrow afternoon, with both clubs capable of putting up big numbers offensively if given the opportunity. I expect the Cardinals to be a bit sluggish at the start, given the travel and time zone differential, but as the game progresses, they should amp things up a bit and be right there with the Falcons at the end.

Offensively, the key for Atlanta is definitely Matt Ryan, and if he has a solid game, expect the rest of the Falcons offense to follow suit. The other main factor in this game for the Falcons will be the play of Michael Turner, who is clearly capable of controlling the game with his punishing ability in the running game, and if the Cardinals slack off at all defensively, expect him to take full advantage.

On the opposite side of the field, Arizona has more than enough firepower to steal this game away from Atlanta, but they’ll have to rely on Derek Anderson to put forward a solid performance against a good Falcons defense to accomplish that. Aside from the stellar season he had in 2007, Anderson has done little as a starter to prove he’s capable of doing that, and as such, it’s hard to expect much from him tomorrow.

At the very least, he should have open receivers to work with, as the Falcons will likely be focusing much of their efforts on containing Larry Fitzgerald, leaving the Cardinals #2 receiver Steve Breaston matched up one on one with his opponent. The other option for the Cardinals offense is to run the ball, and while Tim Hightower is a nice player, he’s not someone that I’d count on to carry the load when the game is on the line, given his propensity for turning the ball over.

Defensively, both clubs present solid fronts, with Arizona being the better of the two. Look for Darnell Dockett to assert himself early on, which should open the door for his teammates as the game progresses, as the Falcons roll their blocking schemes towards him in an effort to keep him locked down.

This game is likely to be a hard fought battle, in which one side or the other scores in an unconventional way, forcing their opponent to deal with the pressure of coming from behind to win the game late. Given the home field advantage, the edge right now has to go to Atlanta on that front.

Final Prediction: Atlanta 31 – Arizona 27

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