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Uncertainty Looms Over Falcons’ QB Situation Heading Into Week 16

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Dec 19, 2023

The Atlanta Falcons find themselves facing a pivotal decision at the quarterback position heading into a crucial Week 16 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. After rookie QB Desmond Ridder struggled mightily in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, head coach Arthur Smith has yet to commit to a starter for this weekend. Let’s examine the key storylines around Atlanta’s fluid quarterback situation:

Ridder’s Disappointing Showing Creates Uncertainty

Desmond Ridder’s first NFL start in Week 13 showed promise, but his last two outings have called his readiness into question. Against Carolina, Ridder committed three turnovers, including an egregious no-look interception where he mistakenly thought WR Drake London would adjust his route:

“I was trying to make a play and tried to do too much. That’s something I have to learn from and not try to make those stupid mistakes.” – Desmond Ridder on his interception

Ridder has flashed intriguing upside, using his mobility to create off-schedule plays. However overall he has struggled with ball security and decision making, posting just a 68.7 passer rating over three appearances. While Ridder possesses talent, he may require more development time before securing the long-term starting role.

Heinicke Looms As Ridder Alternative

With Ridder floundering, Arthur Smith now faces external and internal pressure to turn back to previous starter Taylor Heinicke. Smith hasn’t committed to a Week 16 starter yet, keeping the door open to potentially bench Ridder.

Heinicke provides a steadier hand, having gone 6-3 as a starter earlier this season. While not as dynamic as Ridder, he protects the ball better and executes Arthur Smith’s scheme efficiently. Given Atlanta remains in the playoff hunt, some argue Smith should lean on Heinicke’s experience during a high-stakes December stretch.

On the flip side, Ridder likely offers more upside in the long run. And further disruptions to his development could stall his growth. It’s a complex, high-risk decision Smith wrestles with this week.

Playoff Implications Raise the Stakes

At 5-9, the Falcons somehow remain in contention for an NFC wild card spot. Their next two games against Indianapolis and Arizona represent critical must-wins, with the victor likely capturing the conference’s third wild card position.

With little margin for error, Arthur Smith knows he must have stability under center over the season’s final stretch. If Ridder isn’t ready to lead a playoff push, the staff won’t hesitate to make an in-season change.

Sunday’s showing clearly gives Smith reservations about trusting the keys of his offense to a rookie during the most high-leverage games of Atlanta’s season. Expect the staff to take a long look at all options before naming a starter later this week.

Looking Ahead: Offseason Likely Brings QB Competition

Regardless how the Falcons proceed for the final three weeks, quarterback questions will spill into the offseason. If Ridder closes out 2022 as the starter, he will likely need to fend off a training camp challenge from Heinicke or an external acquisition.

Conversely if Heinicke reassumes duties, Ridder could enter 2023 as the primary backup with a chance to compete for the top job. And the possibility of adding a rookie prospect like Will Levis or Anthony Richardson can’t be fully discounted either.

In all likelihood, Atlanta will stage an open competition next summer between Ridder, a seasoned backup like Heinicke or Jacoby Brissett, and perhaps a Day 2 draft pick. The future face of the franchise has yet to reveal itself, ensuring quarterback intrigue lingers into 2023.

For now Arthur Smith buys time before rendering a firm decision on his Week 16 starter. But in the big picture, uncertainty under center shall remain a prevalent Falcons storyline for months to come. Striking the right balance between Ridder’s development and pursuit of a playoff bid shapes up as Smith’s most pressing challenge over the next three weeks.

Table Comparing Ridder and Heinicke Stats

Stat Desmond Ridder Taylor Heinicke
Record as Starter 1-2 6-3
Completion % 64.9% 63.2%
Passing Yards/Game 156 230
Passer Rating 72.7 89.1
Rushing Yards/Game 29 15

This table illustrates the statistical comparison between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke based on their performances as Falcons starters this season. While Heinicke has been steadier overall, especially protecting the football, Ridder offers more dynamic upside as both a passer and rusher. The stats don’t reveal a clear-cut superior option, explaining Arthur Smith’s challenging decision on who pilots the Atlanta offense in the critical weeks ahead.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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