A Middling End for a Middling Year
The Atlanta Falcons just don’t have enough to contend with the best teams this season. The most recent two-game win streak is a mirage, a flash in a flounder, a frustrating showing of promise against down competition. Going 2-0 against the Bucs and Giants is nothing the team should be overly proud of, nor does it show signs of a resurgence. The offense will score points all season; no one’s doubting that. Though, the OL play has been subpar and will only take a hit with Brandon Fusco out (though Ben Garland is capable). The defense just can’t stop anyone and nearly blew another late-game lead to one of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s just a pointless errand to try and imagine this injury-ravaged team with no elite trench play can overcome this year. There’s not a lot to blame; plenty to regret. I foresee anywhere from a 6-10 to 8-8 run from here; they’ll lose a couple more, win a couple more and leave amongst the middle of the league. It’s just an off year for a team that will be much, much better in 2019.
Oh no, not that glimmer of hope
The Falcons are a team that will NEVER go out. When I’m expecting the final death blow to the season against the Buccaneers, we get a pretty competent team that manages to miraculously string some wins together. 3-4 is not a bad place to be, especially with the potential return of Deion Jones in the near future. The offense is firing on all cylinders, and the defense has been decent after taking away snaps from Duke Riley and Jordan Richards. Can they be just good enough to sneak into the playoffs? Yes. They can also come up just short in the last week or two of the season. If the defense can hold out just a bit longer, I see good odds at a 9-7 finish.
There’s plenty of potential for this team, but it’ll be a tough climb at best.
The Falcons are sitting at 3-4 with a tough game coming up on the road against Washington. After that, they’ll get the Browns on the road (who just fired their HC and OC), and the Cowboys at home. Much depends on how Atlanta fares over these three games. Go 3-0 and enter that Thursday night game against New Orleans at 6-4, and you’ve got a decent shot at a 10-6 finish over the final six. Lose just one game, however, and that Saints game becomes almost a must-win. That’s a tough place to be in, and we have to hope that the Falcons continue to grow and improve over these next three weeks. Realistically, this team will probably finish between 7-9 and 10-6. If they beat Washington this week, I think they’ll wind up with a winning record--although that won’t necessarily be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Atlanta’s going to make it interesting, either way
The Falcons are 3-4, yes, but they are at one of the most uncertain points in any season in recent memory. When they started 5-0 in 2015 and started to fade, it felt inevitable. When they were rolling in 2016, it felt right. When they stumbled over and over again in 2017, it was frustrating but also sort of expected, given the defense’s growing pains and Steve Sarkisian’s first year on the job.
Now? The Falcons could go anywhere from 6-10 and 10-6 and I’d hardly be surprised. They still have the talent necessary to make a hell of a run, especially if the pass rush cranks up and the offense keeps humming, but they’re also so depleted by injuries and rife with disappointing performances along the offensive line and on defense that they could crater if a couple of things go wrong. I’m going to go with 8-8 because it’s the perfect center between those two extremes, would leave the Falcons right in the middle of the pack, and would ensure we didn’t know exactly how to feel about this weird, injury-riddled season. That just feels right.
Mini surge will eventually succumb to limitations across the roster
For all the injuries on both sides of the ball, the Falcons will continue their mini-resurgence in November. A somewhat favorable schedule could elevate them towards having a winning record at some point. Combine those winnable games with the return of Deion Jones and we’ll see some genuine optimism in Atlanta. Eventually, the grueling stretch of six away games in nine weeks will prove to be too overwhelming. Facing the likes of New Orleans, Green Bay, and Carolina isn’t ideal for a below-average defense. It’s also concerning for an offensive line that has shown major regression as an overall unit. There is plenty of offensive firepower to spark some life into what was becoming a lost season. Defensive limitations and offensive line woes will prevent them from making a real playoff push. The Falcons will end the season at either 6-10 or 7-9, which will be their first losing season under Dan Quinn. That means any story about him possibly being on the hot seat is farcical.
They’ll give us just enough hope that we’ll be crushed when they miss the playoffs.
If there’s any team in my life that knows just how to suck me in and lull me into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under me as I watch all of my hopes and dreams crashing down, it’s the Atlanta Falcons. I expect this season to be no different.
This season got off to a rocky start thanks primarily to injuries, but the Falcons made the best of it with a win over the Giants to head into the bye just one game below .500. The defense isn’t good, but the replacement players have settled in. Matt Ryan is otherworldly and putting up MVP-caliber numbers again. And I expect the Falcons to pull off a few improbable wins between now and the end of the season. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to make the postseason, and we’ll all have to root against the Saints and Panthers in the playoffs and get back to waiting for next year yet again.