The Atlanta Falcons(8-1) are coming off the first loss of the season against the rival New Orleans Saints (4-5).
It was a heart breaking loss that saw the Falcons come within one yard of remaining undefeated.
The loss against the Saints showed the vulnerabilities that the Falcons had been able to overcome up until then.
If the Falcons are going to beat the visiting Arizona Cardinals (4-5), who are losers of five straight after a 4-0 start, they are going to have to fix these problems.
The first issue that I see is the running game, or lack-there-of. In the loss to the Saints, the Falcons managed to gain 46 yards on 18 carries. Michael Turner, who led the NFC last year in rushing, was held to 15 yards on 13 carries. Arizona should be a good team to get the run game back on track as they are allowing 126 yards rushing per game.
Another issue that needs work is goal-line and short-yardage situations. Now, if the run game improves, then this issue gets fixed. However, if we can not get the run game going then the passing game is going to have to step up in these situations.
In the Saints game, fans saw how bad the Falcons were in such situations. They were 0-2 on fourth down and short with one of those being from the one-yard line. Something that I believe might help is more quick-slant routes. With these routes, the receivers should have enough room to maneuver to allow Matt Ryan to hit them for 4-5 yards and first downs.
The last issue is red-zone efficiency. In the game against the Saints, the Falcons managed to reach the red-zone six times but only managed to score three touchdowns and two field goals. One of those field goals was only 20 yards, not much more than an extra point.
If the Falcons want to return to winning and go deep into the playoffs, then they are going to have to fix these three issues that the Saints brought to light. If they do this, then they should cruise to a victory over the lowly Cardinals with a 27-14 score.