The 2013 and 2014 seasons were bad enough. The implications that the Falcons piped in fake crowd noise only added to the pain. The idea that the team could be punished by the league for doing so feels like the proverbial straw. But if the news reported by Mike Florio at PFT holds true - that Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff were unaware of the fake crowd noise - the severity of the punishment could be lessened.
In trying to determine what kind of punishment the Falcons could face, this development could be very important. Since fake crowd noise could be perceived as creating an unfair competitive advantage, if it was determined that key people like Dimitroff or Smith were involved, the punishment would likely be far more harsh. For reference, the punishments given to the Saints and the Patriots in recent years was made worse by the involvement of the coaches and/or GMs.
Make no mistake: the league will still levy some sort of punishment against the Falcons, but the severity is the key here. If the Falcons can show that there wasn't a deliberate effort made by key members of the organization, it could be the difference between losing a draft pick and simply paying a large fine. Also, it's highly likely that someone within the organization will be made to take the fall for this - whether they were acting alone or not.
Does this help calm any fears, or do you still believe the Falcons are facing the hammer?