Falcons QB carousel: Taylor Heinicke to start in Week 16 vs. Colts, replacing Desmond Ridder, per report

The Atlanta Falcons have had a roller-coaster season, and nowhere has that been more true than the handling of the team’s quarterback situation. 

Heading into a crucial stretch run, head coach Arthur Smith on Monday declined to commit to which player the team will use under center for its Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts or the rest of the season, according to the team’s official website. According to The Athletic, however, the team will start Taylor Heinicke over Desmond Ridder, making a change from one to the other for the third time this season. 

This offseason, the Falcons declined to look into players like Lamar Jackson (who was a free-agent on the franchise tag), instead insisting that 2022 third-round pick Ridder was their guy. During the early portion of the season, Ridder struggled, completing 65.4% of his passes at an average of 7.1 yards per attempt, with just 6 touchdowns against 6 interceptions through the first eight games of the year. The Falcons ended that stretch with a 4-4 record, and Ridder was benched for the second half of the last of those games.

Smith strangely insisted that Ridder was not benched for performance issues, yet stuck with Heinicke as the starter for each of the team’s next two contests. During his three appearances, Heinicke went 41 of 74 for 498 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, and he was benched in favor of Ridder after going just 8 of 15 for 55 yards and a score against the Cardinals.

Ridder has since started the last four games, during which the team has gone 2-2 as he went 63 of 107 for 788 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. The team has lost back-to-back crucial contests against fellow NFC South opponents, most recently getting embarrassed by the previously 1-win Carolina Panthers in a rain game on Sunday.

It seems fairly clear that Ridder is not the long-term answer under center for this team, but Heinicke also seems unlikely to lead the Falcons to a turnaround that allows them to come back from their 6-8 hole and win the NFC South. The Falcons play the Colts on Sunday, then visit the Bears and Saints in their final two games of the season. They likely need to win at least two and possibly all three to grab a playoff spot, and even though reports surfaced over the weekend that Smith’s job could be safe beyond this year, if things go poorly, that could obviously change.

The Atlanta Falcons have been inconsistent with their quarterback situation throughout the season. Head coach Arthur Smith has declined to commit to a starting quarterback for the team’s Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts and the rest of the season. According to reports, Taylor Heinicke will start over Desmond Ridder for the third time this season. The Falcons initially chose Ridder as their starting quarterback, but he struggled in the early part of the season and was benched. Heinicke took over but has also faced challenges. The team has gone 2-2 with Ridder as the starter in the last four games. It is clear that neither Ridder nor Heinicke is the long-term solution for the Falcons, and their chances of making the playoffs are slim. The team needs to win at least two, if not all three, of their remaining games to have a shot at a playoff spot.

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