Atlanta Falcons Bench Quarterback Desmond Ridder Again

Posted on: December 20, 2023, 11:38h. 

Last updated on: December 21, 2023, 11:08h.

For a second time this season, Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith benched struggling quarterback Desmond Ridder in favor of backup Taylor Heinicke.

Atlanta Falcons QBs Desmond Ridder Taylor Heinicke
Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder (9) and Taylor Henicke (4) are seen here during pregame warmups against the Carolina Panthers. (Image: Getty)

The Falcons have a losing record at 6-8, but they’re still a long shot to win the NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints both have a 7-7 record. If the season ended today, the Bucs would finish in first place in the NFC South. They’d clinch the division title and advance to the NFC playoffs as the #4 seed.

The Falcons have a path, albeit a narrow one, for a potential playoff berth. So long as they’re in contention for a division title or an NFC wild-card spot, Smith is doing everything possible to find the best option at quarterback.

According to a recent projection from Upshot, the Falcons have a 5% chance to win the division and a 7% chance to advance to the playoffs.

Decisive Interception Derails Ridder

Ridder went 4-4 as a starter at the beginning of the season before Smith benched him to jump-start a stagnant offense. After the first eight weeks of the season, the Falcons had the fourth-lowest scoring offense in the NFL, generating only 17.3 points per game.

Ridder returned as the starter in Week 12 after their bye. The temporary benching looked like it worked because the Falcons won two games in a row with Ridder back under center.

Ridder regressed, and the Falcons lost their last two games, including a tough 29-25 loss against the Bucs in Week 14. However, it was a soul-crushing loss against the Carolina Panthers in Week 15 that might have sealed Ridder’s fate.

The Falcons led 7-6 late in the game and were on the verge of scoring a touchdown before Ridder threw a red-zone interception. The Panthers and rookie quarterback Bryce Young took advantage of the momentum swing and kicked a game-winning field goal to win, 9-7. The Panthers won only their second game of the season, so it was a humiliating loss against a divisional rival.

Obviously, I’ve had my ups and downs,” said Ridder. “I’ve been able to go out there and play good games and then, obviously throughout the games, there’s one or two plays in each game where something goes wrong or there’s a mistake.”

Ridder has 14 fumbles this season. He also has six turnovers in the red zone, which is ranked first in the NFL.

Ridder has a 6-6 record as a starter for the Falcons this season. He completed 63.3% of his passes for 2,528 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added five rushing touchdowns.

Heinicke Gets Another Shot

Before this season, Heinicke went 12-12-1 as a starter with the Washington Commanders. He’s 0-2 as a starter with the Falcons this season.

Heinicke lost both his starts by five combined points. The Falcons lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28, in Week 9 after a legendary performance from backup quarterback Josh Dobbs.

In Week 10, the Falcons blew a fourth-quarter lead, and Kyler Murray led the Cardinals to a 25-23 comeback victory.

We’re frustrated,” Smith said after the loss. “Anybody would be when you come up short. We have to fix what’s been our issues and find a way to get back in the win column.”

During their bye week, Smith made the tough decision to reinstate Ridder. That tenure lasted only four games before Smith tapped Heinicke to take over as a starter once again.

In three appearances this season, Heinicke completed 55.4% of his passes for 498 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

Betting After Another QB Change

The Falcons must win all of their remaining games if they want to have a shot at a playoff berth or compete for a division crown. In that sense, Week 16 has the feel of a playoff game, because the Falcons are in a must-win situation.

The Falcons host the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) on Sunday, which is their last home game of the season in Atlanta. They hit the road for two away games to finish the season, including the Chicago Bears in Week 17 and the Saints in Week 18.

The Falcons are anywhere from a pick’em to a -1.5 favorite against the Colts. The South Point Casino in Las Vegas currently has that game as a pick’em, but the Circa Casino and Sportsbook installed the Falcons as a -1.5 favorite. Fan Duel and DraftKings have the Falcons as a -1 favorite.

The Colts are tied for the best betting record in the NFL this season with a 9-5 clip against the point spread. The Falcons have the third-worst betting record in the NFL with a 4-10 ATS record. Heinicke is 0-2 ATS this season as a starter.

The Bucs are the betting favorite to win the NFC South at -165 odds, and they’re ahead of the Saints (+195) and the Falcons (+750). Upshot suggests that the Bucs have a 68% chance to win the division, and the Saints have a 27% chance.

The Falcons are +600 odds to make the playoffs, according to a prop bet from DraftKings. They’re a favorite to miss the postseason at -900 odds.

The Falcons are a long shot to win the Super Bowl at +20000 odds.