NFL Playoff Preview
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Saturday, 4:30PM Eastern
Bookmaker.com betting line – Atlanta Falcons -2, 51.5 O/U
The Arizona Cardinals get the luxury of hosting the first game of the 2009 Playoffs when they take on the Atlanta Falcons. Arizona captured the #4 seed with a final record of 9-7 benefiting from a poor NFC West. Atlanta finished at a mark of 11-5, but that was only good enough for a wildcard spot considering they finished 2nd in their division behind the Carolina Panthers. These two teams have been on different paths towards the end of the season and it will be interesting to see if they stay in those directions. The Cardinals are losers of 4 of their last 6 games to close out the season and have really struggled on both sides of the ball down the stretch. Atlanta has been headed in the right direction winning 3 straight and 5 of their last 6. Will the Falcons continue their strong stretch or will the Cardinals bounce back and return to early season form?
Arizona started the year with one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Veteran QB Kurt Warner has led the Arizona offense to 365 yards per game ranking as the 4th best overall offense in the league. The passing attack has been superb averaging 292 yards per game which ranks 2nd best in the NFL. However, in recent weeks the high power offense has not been playing up to par. Arizona had averaged nearly 30 points per game up until their last 3 weeks of the season. During that bad stretch of games to end the season, the Cardinals have only averaged 18 points per game. Arizona will look for Kurt Warner and company to get back to offensive dominance and try to put up some big number this Saturday. The Cardinals are 1-5 against NFC South teams in their last 6 attempts, but will try to give Arizona their first playoff victory since 1999.
Atlanta has really played well closing out the season behind the play of rookie QB Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. Ryan has played like a stealthy veteran behind center this season throwing for 3,440 yards and 16 touchdowns. Turner leads a powerful ground attack that has the Falcons ranked as the #2 best rush offense in the NFL. On the season, Turner has racked up an amazing 1,699 yards which also 2nd most in the NFL behind Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson. The Falcons will look to establish the running game and keep the Cardinals offense off the field. If the Falcons can control the ground game, then Arizona could have a hard time finding rhythm. The Atlanta offense will line up with a defensive that has really struggled this season. The Cardinals have allowed 26 points per game this season and Atlanta hopes to be able to post some touchdowns on the scoreboard.
What to watch for…
The Arizona offense will be fun to watch. They are a pass happy bunch and keep an eye on how their receivers stack up against the Atlanta secondary. On the other side of the ball, Michael Turner could be a big difference in the ball game. There should be some points scored in this ball game, but which team will be able to come up big defensively will be the question.
Atlanta is 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games. The Falcons have been pretty even on the over/under total this season reaching the under side in 9 of their 16 games. The Falcons are also 2-0 ATS against the Cardinals in their last two meetings. Arizona is 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games while reaching the over total in 5 of those last 6 games. However, the Cardinals have been solid at home this season with a 6-3 ATS mark in Phoenix.
Pick – Atlanta stays hot against the struggling Cardinals.
NFC Wild Card – Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals Pick
NFL Playoff Preview