Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke will take over as the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9, replacing Desmond Ridder. The decision was made by head coach Arthur Smith in an effort to improve the team’s sputtering offense. The Falcons, currently tied for first place in the NFC South with the New Orleans Saints, have struggled offensively, averaging just 17.3 points per game.
Ridder, who has a record of 4-4 as the starter this season, has completed 65.4% of his passes for 1,701 yards, with six passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. However, he has also thrown six interceptions and has been sacked 25 times. In Week 8, Ridder was sacked five times by the Tennessee Titans and was evaluated for a concussion at halftime. Despite being cleared by the medical staff, Smith decided to bench Ridder and bring in Heinicke to finish the game, which resulted in a 28-23 loss for the Falcons.
Heinicke, who joined the Falcons as a backup after starting 24 games with the Washington Commanders over the past two seasons, has finally been given an opportunity to start. He has a record of 12-11-1 as a starter and is known for his ability to extend plays. In his relief appearance against the Titans, Heinicke led the Falcons to scoring drives on four of their first five possessions in the second half. Although the Falcons ultimately lost the game, Heinicke completed 12 of 21 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown.
The switch at quarterback comes at a crucial time for the Falcons, as they are in a tight race for the NFC South title. Currently, the Falcons are the betting favorite to win the division at +115 odds, followed closely by the Saints at +125 odds. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just half a game behind the Falcons and Saints at 4-4. The Falcons have a 57% chance to make the playoffs and a 36% chance to win the NFC South, according to Upshot’s NFL playoff simulator.
As the Falcons prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9, Heinicke is focused on the task at hand and is prepared to face a difficult Vikings defense. The outcome of this game could have a significant impact on the Falcons’ playoff chances and their position in the NFC South race.