Your Atlanta Falcons must go on. There is no option to bow out of contention gracefully when you’re hanging by your molars in the playoff hunt, and no way to just hand Baltimore a win and call it a day. More to the point, your Atlanta Falcons would never want that, because for all their warts and many flaws they still want to win the damn game every week.
So it goes with Baltimore. Atlanta’s playing for little more than dignity unless they can pull off five straight wins and get some help, and while no one in that locker room will tell you that it’s impossible, it certainly is unlikely. It would be very much like Atlanta to right the ship when it’s very nearly too late, so don’t count them out of this one.
Either way, here’s where the Falcons stand today.
Derrick Shelby hit injured reserve this week, likely ending a largely disappointing Falcons career on a disappointing note. With Shelby gone, the Falcons will activate Steven Means and see if he can add anything as a pass rusher, and they also brought defensive back Ryan Neal onto the active roster. Neal’s interesting because of his physicality and length, and he could carve out a role as the team’s fourth safety if Jordan Richards and Sharrod Neasman aren’t coming back. He’ll likely be a gameday inactive in the meantime.
It’s also noteworthy that the Falcons brought former Bear Jeremy Langford onto the practice squad, given that Tevin Coleman is almost certainly gone in free agency next year.
As this Falcons season goes, extremely healthy. Matt Bryant is okay, Deion Jones is back, and everyone else is pretty healthy. This team has few excuses for not putting up a good effort against Baltimore, given everything.
What’s at stake?
What’s really at stake here is the perception that this team could make the playoffs, since it’s still technically possible. A loss ends that fantasy once and for all, while a win keeps Atlanta technically alive and shows they can beat AFC teams, something that is admittedly very much in doubt under Dan Quinn.
Otherwise, it’s just pride and draft position at stake.
The Falcons’ defense is going to struggle to stop Lamar Jackson and this offense, candidly. The question is whether they can hold the Ravens to a reasonable number of points and get the offense going for the first time in weeks.
At the peak of their powers, this Falcons offense is so good that even the Ravens defense can’t hold them in check. The problem has been that Atlanta has been far from that peak in recent weeks, and it’s cost them multiple games. If they can get going at home in the dome, I genuinely think they’ll win this one. Whether you view that as a good thing or not likely depends on how much importance you put into a top ten draft pick.