In the home finale, the Falcons (4-9) will host the Cardinals (3-10) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Like the Falcons, the Cardinals have been hit hard by injury in coach Steve Wilks’ first season with the team.
Former Grayson High star Robert Nkemdiche suffered a knee injury against the Lions on Sunday and was the 14th Cardinal placed on injured reserve. He was the Cardinals’ second defensive tackle and sixth defensive player added to the list.
Wilks knows the Falcons from his days with the Panthers (2012-17).
The Cardinals are trying to build around rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, selected 10th overall out of UCLA in the 2018 NFL draft.
Four games into the season, the Cardinals promoted former Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich into the offensive coordinator position.
Rosen has completed 55.4 percent of his passes, with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a 68.3 passer rating in 11 games.
In the 17-3 loss to the Lions on Sunday, Rosen completed 26 of 41 passes for 240 yards and had one interception. He finished with a passer rating of 69.2 and had just one trip into the red zone.
Rosen will be compared to the other rookie quarterbacks, who were selected in the top 10. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, New York Jets’ Sam Darnold and Buffalo’s Josh Allen.
Mayfield, who guided the Browns to a 28-19 victory over the Falcons on Nov. 11, is having the best season of the rookies with 19 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 93.4.
Darnold has 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and 69.5 passer rating. Allen has five touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 62.8 passer rating.
“I was very impressed by Rosen,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of his pre-draft studies of the quarterbacks. “The accuracy, the quickness, the mental quickness of where to go with the ball.”
Quinn did some cross-referencing studying the quarterbacks coming out for last season’s draft.
“I can remember going back through a UCLA and USC game, back and forth because both quarterbacks in that same game to see those two against similar players, both of them had played Stanford.
“I remember going back and watching that game until I treated both of the quarterbacks against common opponents. I could clearly remember as we're getting into the preparation of this week, but the quickness that the ball came out of his hands with the decision where to go with it.”
Rosen is not devoid of weapons. He’s playing with future Pro Football Hall of Famer wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson.
However, his protection has been an issue as the Cardinals have started nine different offensive line combinations because of injuries. He was sacked three times and hit eight times in the loss to the Lions.
Fitzgerald, 35, is in his 15th year in the league. He has 52 catches for 563 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s had over 1,000 yards receiving nine times and had more than 100 catches in five different seasons.
Quinn used to face Fitzgerald twice a season when he was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks.
“So I think forever, if you're going to talk about the Cardinals, you have a star player (in) Larry Fitzgerald,” Quinn said. “The impact he's had, the career he's had with their team on the offense for sure.”
Johnson was targeted 10 times by Rosen against the Lions. He had eight catches for just 12 yards. He rushed 15 times for 49 yards as the jumbled up offensive line is an issue.
“(David) Johnson is difficult to guard,” Quinn said. “I can say that firsthand after being in that division for some years. So, I know the style that he can play with. Byron Leftwich has done a good job also.”
Leftwich was with the Falcons during the Michael Vick-Bobby Petrino season from hell of 2007. He started two games and played in three.
“He's a guy that took over and is making calls now as the offensive coordinator,” Quinn said. “It’s been impressive to see some of the things that he's been able to do.”
The Cardinals defense is anchored by linebacker Chandler Jones, who has 12 sacks. Also, defensive backs Budda Baker and safety Antoine Bethea are having solid seasons. Former Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters has two sacks and played 41 of 60 defensive snaps (68 percent) against the Lions.
Linebacker Haason Reddick led the unit with 11 tackles against the Lions.
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