Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith likes being vague with reporters, so here's what we know based on what he shared Wednesday: Taylor Heinicke will start at quarterback this week, with Desmond Ridder as his backup.
Smith said he wasn't focused on the long term, via Mike Rothstein of ESPN, and only this week's game against the Minnesota Vikings. That's part of him being dodgy in his answers. It certainly would appear, if Ridder is healthy enough to be the backup, that he has just been benched.
Ridder has been up and down this season, and there has been speculation for a few weeks the Falcons could try Heinicke to settle down the offense. Ridder left last week's game to be evaluated for a concussion and never returned.
Smith said Ridder wasn't benched for performance issues last Sunday. But this week, Ridder is healthy enough to at least be the backup, but Heinicke will start.
At the very least, it would be nearly impossible for the Falcons to turn back to Ridder if Heinicke plays well Sunday. This is a tryout for Heinicke for the rest of the season, unless Smith has already made up his mind that the move is permanent. Not that he'd share that publicly.
The Falcons are 4-4 and have a very easy schedule the rest of the way. They could win the NFC South, but quarterback play is a reason they've been mediocre. Perhaps a change at quarterback will stabilize the Falcons a bit.