Ask the Expert: Kent Somers

Reggie Roberts: Offensively, the Cardinals are seemingly in flux like a lot of NFL teams this season who have been hit hard with the injury bug.  Have injuries been a contributing factor that could explain why the Cardinals have not been as consistently offensively as they have been in past seasons?

Kent Somers:  Losing guard Jonathan Cooper, their first round pick, in the preseason, hurt a lot. Other than that, however, this offensive group has been fairly healthy. The offense has shown flashes of potency, but only flashes. They have struggled to protect quarterback Carson Palmer and to run the ball consistently.

RR: Carson Palmer has a strong arm and can still throw the football down the field.  How has he performed so far this season?

KS: He started off pretty well, but has struggled over the last month. He has 13 interceptions, second most in the NFL. His protection hasn't been great, and Palmer isn't mobile enough to avoid rushers. Bruce Arians has a goal of taking an average of six shots downfield every game, but the Cardinals aren't making those plays. Last week, they had no plays of 20-plus yards.

RR: Running back Rashard Mendenhall is the starter and former Clemson Tiger Andre Ellington has excellent speed, but the Cardinals drafted Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech in the second round in 2011?  Will we likely get a look at Williams on Sunday?

KS: I doubt it. Williams has been inactive every week and it doesn't seem as if that will change.

RR: Give us your take on all of the injuries that took place over the weekend and how they have piled up this season.  Is this just one of those NFL seasons that's an anomaly from an injury perspective, or do you think this is something the NFL's Competition Committee will take a hard look at during the upcoming offseason?

KS:  I'm not sure what the competition committee can do to decrease the type of injuries that occurred last week. Reggie Wayne's was a freak knee injury, for instance. The injuries don't seem to be a result of any one technique that should be outlawed or some rule that needs to be tweaked.

RR: Defensively, the Cardinals have a ton of players – Patrick Peterson, Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and Karlos Dansby – just to name a few.  What kind of season has it been for the Cardinals from a defensive perspective?

KS: Overall, the defense has been very good. It's a playoff caliber group. Peterson guards the best receiver the entire game. Campbell is as good a 3-4 end as there is in the NFL. Linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the first four games, and along with Dansby, gives the Cardinals two excellent inside linebackers. The defense is excellent against the run. The biggest problem? Opposing tight ends have had huge days, and that has to worry them this week against Tony Gonzalez.

RR:  The Falcons, after dropping three straight games for the first time since Mike Smith became head coach in 2008, got back on track last Sunday with a win over Tampa Bay.  Give us your assessment of the Falcons and what kind of game are you expecting on Sunday.

KS:  From far away, it seems they were victims of a difficult schedule early and are now dealing with key injuries, especially on offense. Their front seven doesn't appear as good as the ones the Cardinals have faced lately (Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle), but then again, it's not as if the Cardinals offensive line scares anyone. Mike Smith is one of the best in the game, so I think at some point the Falcons will turn things around. This could be that point.

RR: And finally, give us a prediction and a projected final score?

KS:  A critical game for both teams. At 3-4, the Cardinals have three losses in the division, but the NFC wildcards look wide open this year. The Cardinals play three consecutive teams with losing records, Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville, so it's possible to get back in the thick of the race. Of course, most opposing teams view the Cardinals game as a chance to get well. I would think the Falcons look at this as a great chance to win on the road.  I'll pick the Cardinals for two reasons: the Falcons' injuries and home field advantage — 23-20.

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