Will the Falcons embrace the suck, letting it consume them and fueling their meteoric rise to the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft? Or will they spurn the thing that loves them best and actually win a game?
It’s the question of the week because the outcome is legitimately in doubt. The surging Buccaneers should be able to beat the Falcons, if we’re being blunt, and even the suddenly lousy Panthers can get the job done. There are legitimate doubts about whether Arizona is good enough to beat Atlanta, even though there are equally valid doubts about the Falcons’ ability to put together four quarters of solid football and come away with a W.
It’s a big question because of its implications for this team’s ability and future. The Falcons are extremely likely to settle into a top ten pick because of their outsized ineptitude, but getting a top five pick or even the top pick in the class could land them the kind of elite defensive line talent they’ve bluntly lacked since John Abraham was cut. Losing to Arizona, meanwhile, would signal to everyone from Arthur Blank down to Dan Quinn that this team really is hopeless in 2018, which has profound implications for the job security of assistant coaches and some key veteran players, if their status wasn’t already in doubt.
If I thought DQ was at all in danger, I’d argue that a loss here would provide Arthur Blank grounds for moving on, but Blank’s been pretty unequivocal in his support for Quinn and longtime GM Thomas Dimitroff. For Steve Sarkisian, who has presided over a talented offense that hasn’t mustered 100 points over its last five games, or Marquand Manuel, who has seen his defensive line and secondary make approximately zero progress after showing some promise in 2017, things are decidedly less certain. They’re less certain still for Ryan Schraeder, who has had a brutally bad 2018 and could be re-structured or cut to save the Falcons about $4 million, and Robert Alford, who has also had an awful season by his standards and could be cut to save $7.9 million. Schraeder’s already parked on the bench, but Sark, Manuel, and Alford, among others, could all use a couple of strong performances to send the message that they’re not cooked.
So that’s the big question in a nutshell: Will the Falcons lose, thus signaling they’re truly one of the handful of worst teams in the NFL, or will they win and damage their draft stock? It’s not quite a Catch-22 for an Atlanta team with severely wounded pride, but it bears watching to see just how low this squad can go.