SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting. Cardinals lead series, 15-14. The home team is 21-8 in the series. The Falcons are 12-6 in the series at home. Arizona will be searching for its first win at Atlanta since the 1993 season. This will be the Cardinals' fifth regular-season meeting at Atlanta in the past nine years.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Atlanta will try to establish the run against a Cardinals defense that struggles against ground attacks. Arizona ranks 32nd in the league in rushing yards allowed. That's good news for the Falcons, who have struggled to run the ball with much conviction during their five-game losing streak and average 81.2 yards per game. Head coach Dan Quinn said he is still committed to running the ball, which means running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith will need to be effective in order to make things better for quarterback Matt Ryan.
Arizona's best chance to exploit the Falcons is by attacking their below-average rush defense, which is allowing 131.2 yards per game. Running back David Johnson is nursing a sore quadriceps, however, and although he is expected to play, he may not be close to 100 percent. With the offensive line and wide receiver units already decimated by injuries and turnover, the Cardinals and rookie Josh Rosen may have to turn to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to help bail them out.
Defensively, the Cardinals will look to throw an all-out blitz attack on Ryan. They've had their success in confounding Ryan, intercepting him five times during a game in 2012 and picking him off four times during a game in 2013. Though the Cardinals have put up some stellar sack statistics this season, they've lost two of their best defensive tackles to injured reserve in Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre. The pass rush will have to come from the outside with defensive ends Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--QUESTIONABLE: S Budda Baker (knee), LB Deone Bucannon (chest), WR Chad Williams (hamstring)
--OUT: DT Terrell McClain (toe)
--QUESTIONABLE: RB Ito Smith (knee, neck)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. Cardinals DE Chandler Jones. Ryan has faced the Cardinals five times and beaten them on four occasions. He has averaged 289 yards per game, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions for an 86.9 rating. When he faced the Cardinals in 2012, Ryan became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw five interceptions and still win. He needs only five completions to pass Hall of Famer Warren Moon for 10th place on the all-time list. Jones has 12 sacks and 17 quarterback hits this season.
--Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones. Peterson shut down Jones the last time they met in the regular season, holding Jones to just four receptions for 35 yards and no touchdowns in 2016. In the two previous games before that, however, Jones got the best of Peterson and the Cardinals with 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown in 2014 and nine receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown in 2012. Peterson has shadowed five top receivers this season and didn't allow more than two receptions against any of them.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson. The perennial Pro Bowler has not allowed 80 or more receiving yards in a game dating back to 2014. Peterson has only allowed 25 total receptions this season, the second-fewest by a corner in 2018. On Sunday, he'll be shadowing the Falcons' Julio Jones, who leads the league with 1,429 receiving yards and ranks fourth with 94 receptions. Peterson was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft and was selected one spot in front of Jones.
FAST FACTS: CARDINALS QB JOSH ROSEN (rookie) completed career-high 26 passes last week. Ranks 3rd among NFL rookies in 2018 with 1,910 pass yards & 10 TD passes. ... WR LARRY FITZGERALD has 1,286 career receptions with Az. & surpassed HOFer JERRY RICE (1,281 with SF) for most receptions with 1 team in NFL history. ... Rookie WR TRENT SHERFIELD set career highs in catches (5) & rec. yards (77) last week. ... DE CHANDLER JONES ties for 2nd in NFC with 12 sacks this season. Since 2016, leads NFL in sacks (40) & TFL (54). Has 5.5 sacks in his past 5. ... LB HAASON REDDICK led team with career-high 11 tackles in Week 14. ... S BUDDA BAKER had FF & FR last week. ... S ANTOINE BETHEA is only NFL safety with 100+ tackles (105) in 2018. Bethea & Baker (82) are only pair of NFC safety teammates with 80+ tackles each. ... FALCONS QB MATT RYAN passed for 262 yards with 3 TDs vs. 1 INT for 97.5 rating last week. Is 1 of 2 in NFL with 4,000+ pass yards (4,076) & 100+ rating (108.3) in 2018. ... RB TEVIN COLEMAN had rush TD in last meeting. ... Rookie RB ITO SMITH had career-high 74 scrimmage yards (60 rush, 14 rec.) last week. Ranks 2nd among NFC rookies with 4 rush TDs in 2018. ... WR JULIO JONES had 8 receptions for 106 yards & 2 TDs in Week 14. Leads NFL with 1,429 rec. yards & ranks 4th with 94 receptions. Has 6+ receptions & 100+ rec. yards in 7 of his past 8. ... LB VIC BEASLEY JR. had sack last week. Has 2 sacks & 74-yard FR-TD in his past 2 at home. ... CB DESMOND TRUFANT had sack in Week 14. ... CB ROBERT ALFORD has 47 PD since 2016, 3rd-most in NFL over span.
PREDICTION: The Falcons get a perfect opponent to halt their slide in the punchless Cardinals, who average a league-worst 13.7 points. The Jones-Peterson matchup at least provides a reason to watch.
OUR PICK: Falcons, 26-17