There are milestones for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. There is a victory to be had to cap off the season with some minor measure of dignity. And most intriguingly and yet least likely, there is an opportunity for in-game evaluation of some young players who haven’t gotten much of a shot in 2018.
When you’re asking for this week’s big question, you’re really asking what this game could possibly mean to Atlanta, and what it should mean. The Falcons can treat this like any other game, to borrow a cliche you haven’t heard the last of, and simply try to beat on a depressed Bucs team likely on the cusp of clearing out its front office and coaching staff. The benefits of doing so, besides building a little confidence heading into the offseason, are obviously difficult to define. They could also try to win but do so with Brian Hill and Russell Gage and Matt Gono and Deadrin Senat soaking up playing time against the Bucs, which would make a victory less likely but might help this team make some offseason decisions, however small 30-40 snaps might be in the grand scheme of things.
It’s not an important decision to make, but it’s one that will impact both our enjoyment of this game and what the Falcons decide to use it for. The Falcons are likely to clean out their coordinators and other assistant coaches, not to mention taking a hard look at whether Vic Beasley and Robert Alford and Ryan Schraeder are set to return. Anything they can do in this last game to help them make those decisions, whether they be difficult ones or not, is worth the time. After this, we have to settle in for the long, cold chill of the offseason, after all.
I’m hopeful we’ll see some of the team’s more interesting young players and, regardless of what decision Atlanta makes, an entertaining game.