Preview: Cardinals @ Falcons

A preview of Sunday's matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons.

Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/19/10
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX (Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick)

PREDICTION: Falcons 31-22

KEYS TO THE GAME: Arizona's passing game is a work in progress with surprise starting quarterback Derek Anderson at the helm -- he was behind Matt Leinart in August, but became the starter when Leinart fizzled in preseason games at Tennessee and Chicago. The Falcons continue to struggle to run the ball against 3-4 defenses. The Cardinals held Turner to 60 yards in the wild-card playoff game after the 2008 season.

FAST FACTS: The Cardinals have started a season 2-0 three times since moving to Arizona in 1988. They did it in 2008, the season in which they went to the Super Bowl. ... This week's contest marks the first time the two teams have met in the regular season since 2007, a 30-27 Arizona victory. The Falcons have a 9-6 edge in games played in Atlanta.



Quarterback Derek Anderson was tough and resilient in the Cardinals' victory over the Rams last week in the season opener.

What he was not, however, was accurate. And if Anderson doesn't improve, the Cardinals are not going to be nearly as explosive as they have been in the past.

The Rams might have given other teams a template for playing the Cardinals. They blitzed constantly, making sure to bring more rushers than the Cardinals could block.

In those instances, Anderson has to throw accurately to his hot receiver. He failed at that numerous times in the opener, especially when he tried to hit Larry Fitzgerald.

Anderson targeted Fitzgerald 15 times but completed only three passes to the All-Pro receiver.

"I missed some throws, some easy ones I've got to make," Anderson said. "I have to be better. I missed some chip shots. It was like missing a 4-foot birdie (putt) on a few of them."

Everyone connected with the Cardinals blamed that on Anderson's lack of work with Fitzgerald. Anderson was named the starter with two preseason games remaining, and Fitzgerald was out at the time with a knee sprain.

The two haven't worked much together, and certainly didn't seem to be in the same area code in the season opener.

"We're going to be good," Anderson said this week when asked about throwing to Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald estimates he's about 75 percent now, more than a month since suffering a sprained MCL in the preseason opener.

Fitzgerald is expected to improve, but it's questionable if Anderson's accuracy will. In six previous NFL seasons, Anderson completed only 53 percent of his passes.

He has a strong arm but lacks touch, and that's required at times to get the ball to Fitzgerald, who excels on fade routes and in beating press coverage.


No one can accuse two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White of getting off to a slow start.

He was targeted 23 times in the season opener against Pittsburgh and ended up with 13 catches for 111 yards.

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has raved about White's offseason preparation for the season and likes running the passing game through White.

White is looking to become the first Atlanta wide receiver to post four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

And if you think the 23 targets were high, don't look for the Falcons to all of sudden get shy about throwing the ball to White.

"He's a guy that we like in the matchups," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It really doesn't matter who they put on him. We know Roddy is going to win his share."

With Michael Jenkins out with a shoulder injury, White's new starting sidekick is Harry Douglas. He was targeted only three times against Pittsburgh, but made all three catches.

He is coming back from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of the 2009 season.

"It was good to see Harry back out there," Smith said. "Harry's had a long battle coming back from that knee. He is going to be an integral part of what we want to do offensively."

White's 13 receptions were a career-high, but he wasn't happy that neither he nor anybody on the offense was able to find the end zone.

After a field goal tied the game 9-9, the Falcons' defense got a stop and the offense had plenty of time to drive into field-goal range again with 1:40 left. However, Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu intercepted a pass intended for White.

"I can't see that guy," White said. "He's all the way over in the middle of the field. He's a play-maker. Just when they needed a big play, he came up with it."

If the Falcons can hit on some big plays, they can get the offense rolling, the wide receiver said.

"We have to get some more explosive plays on offense to make the drives easier," White said. "We are making it real hard on ourselves."



--QB Derek Anderson completed 54 percent of his passes last week and thinks he could have easily reached 60 percent if he had completed some easy throws.

--RB Tim Hightower is working on carrying the ball high and tight after losing two fumbles in the season opener. Hightower will continue to start but admitted the fumbles are a problem for him.

--RB Beanie Wells has not practiced fully this week because of a bruised knee. The team is holding out hope that he can play on Sunday, but that seems doubtful because Wells has no practiced in nearly two weeks.

--RB Jason Wright has recovered sufficiently from turf toe to play a role in the Falcons' game on Sunday. Wright was used on an emergency basis last week against the Rams.

--WR Steve Breaston had 132 receiving yards last week, a career high. Breaston also saved two possible touchdowns by chasing down defenders after Arizona lost fumbles.

--WR Stephen Williams did not catch a pass last week but should be a bigger part of the game plan this week. Williams will take some snaps for Larry Fitzgerald at times and also line up at No. 3 receiver.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald isn't 100 percent recovered from a sprained knee but is expected to play on Sunday. Fitzgerald will be given some snaps off so he can be fresh in the fourth quarter.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling will be a versatile third-down back this year. He had seven carries for 49 yards last week and has proven to be a capable receiver.


--WR Michael Jenkins (shoulder) did not practice Thursday. He did not play in the season opener.

--WR Roddy White, after having 23 passes thrown his way, may be shadowed by Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. "That would be great," White said. "I will be up for the challenge. I will be rested and ready."

--DT Corey Peters, the rookie third-round pick from Kentucky, played 25 snaps against the Steelers. He was on the field in the fourth quarter, too. With the return of Jonathan Babineaux, Peters' snaps will likely decrease against Arizona.

--C Todd McClure said the team was close to busting a few big runs against the Steelers, who held them to 58 yards rushing on 25 carries.

--RB Jerious Norwood averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns against the Steelers.

--TE Tony Gonzalez became the first tight end in the 91-year history of the NFL to catch 1,000 passes. Gonzalez is the seventh player in league history with 1,000 catches.

--QB Matt Ryan completed 27 of 44 passes for 252 yards, including a 23-yard long to WR Harry Douglas.

--RB Michael Turner rushed for 42 yards on 19 carries in the season opener.

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