Our Interview with the Enemy series continues this week with Evan Birchfield from The Falcoholic. Evan joins us again to answer a few quick questions before the Atlanta Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints in Caesars Superdome on Sunday.
TH: Marcus Mariota was benched for rookie QB Desmond Ridder. Mariota did not take the news well and is not with the team right now. Arthur Smith said it was due to a knee injury, but there has been no previous mention of such injury, so what are your thoughts on that whole situation?
EB: It’s truly a weird situation. As mentioned, Marcus Mariota hasn’t been on any injury reports with an injury but is now headed to injured reserve soon. He’s also reportedly having surgery in the near future. There was some news about him potentially leaving the team due to the benching, which I hope isn’t factual because that’s a bad look in the NFL. It’s your job, regardless of if you’re a starter or not, to be prepared to hit the field at any moment. Injuries happen, for example Mitchell Trubisky was benched by the Pittsburgh Steelers and is now back on the field as their starter due to injury. But again, we don’t have all of the facts in regard to the situation with Mariota, so I have no strong opinion on the matter.
TH: Speaking of Ridder, he will get his first NFL start against the Saints. What are you looking to see from him, and do you think the Falcons will lean on their running game to take some pressure off of Ridder?
EB: Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from Desmond Ridder. The Falcons used a third-round pick on him, which if he turns out to be a franchise quarterback is a steal. I was hoping they would move to Ridder sooner, as his “interview” for the starting job will now be without tight end Kyle Pitts, which is rather unfortunate. I’m cautiously excited. I think the Falcons may throw it more than usual with Ridder at quarterback. With Mariota, they had to run because Mariota isn’t a great passer. With Ridder, the passing game should be somewhat improved. The Falcons remaining games should be looked at as a observation on whether Ridder is the future at the position or not, so they should let him throw out of the gate.
TH: What will be the biggest obstacle that the Falcons will face in order to defeat the Saints on Sunday?
EB: It’s hard to say what the biggest obstacle is because of how unpredictable these two teams are, especially in this rivalry. Records can always be thrown out the window when they face off, because of how tough they play each other. Looking at Week 1, the Falcons biggest struggle was keeping the lead. The Saints scored 17 points in the 4th quarter after scoring 10 total in the previous three quarters. The Falcons have a history of letting off the gas early, and that needs to be something they don’t repeat if they take the lead in this matchup.
TH: Looking at free agency with several Falcons players on one-year deals, who are some of the key guys that they will be looking to re-sign in the offseason and what positions will be vital for them to upgrade?
EB: Some of the most notable Falcons’ players set to hit free agency in my opinion are linebacker Lorenzo Carter, corner Isaiah Oliver and linebacker Rashaan Evans. Those are solid pieces that I would like to see return, and they shouldn’t be too expensive. In my opinion, the positions they need to address the most this offseason is left guard and EDGE. It’s annual thing as a Falcons’ fan to dream of having a dominant edge rusher, and it’s an annual thing to be let down by the results.
TH: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Saints are currently 4.5-point favorites. Do you think they cover the spread and what is your final score prediction?
EB: As mentioned, it’s tough to predict these games. We can’t even compare this game to the first matchup because both teams will literally be starting different quarterbacks. With it being Ridder’s first start, that’s a tough environment to debut in and it will be telling if he’s able to rise above it or struggle on the road. Call it wishful thinking, but I’m going to say Falcons win 31-28. With that being said, I have no confidence in that prediction, Haha. Good luck on Sunday!
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