The Atlanta Falcons somehow have found themselves in first place in the NFC South despite sitting at 3-4 on the season. Sunday’s matchup between Carolina and Atlanta will be a battle for first place one that the Falcons should have a clear advantage in. With the superior coach and more talent offensively Atlanta should win this game even with Marcus Mariota as their quarterback.
Rookie Desmond Ridder has remained on the bench so far this season despite the fact that Mariota is an erratic passer and has 8-fumbles and 4-interceptions on the season. If you aren’t an elite passer you cannot also be the turnover machine Mariota has been this season.
The issue with fumbles has managed to get worse than his time with the Titans when Mariota’s season high in fumbles was 10 each of his first two seasons. Mariota is on pace to far surpass this number and yet continues to struggle to make decisions from the pocket making late throws and taking sacks he shouldn’t.
All of this points to Atlanta needing to put rookie Desmond Ridder into the lineup. Ridder may not have Mariota’s speed but he is a far superior passer and can make enough plays with his legs to keep the defense honest. Ridder should have been in the lineup three weeks ago, however, going into a showdown for the division it is understandable if the Falcons don’t want to risk making a quarterback change.
While Ridder would likely tilt this game in Atlanta’s favor putting in a new quarterback is a risk. One Atlanta doesn’t have to take to win this game, Mariota has beaten better teams in the Browns and Seahawks and proven he can make enough throws to beat bad teams.
Don’t let the upset win over a stumbling Tampa Bay fool you, the Carolina Panthers are a bad football team. One that Atlanta should have no issue beating even with Mariota under center. Simply running the ball and allowing Mariota to attempt to play point guard as he did against the Browns, Seahawks, and 49ers should be enough for the Falcons to win this game and lock up a one-game lead in the NFC South.