The Atlanta Falcons went over the precipice. For weeks and weeks I clung to hope that they’d turn this thing around in time to save the season, because the Falcons of the previous two seasons had done a marvelous job of rebounding from tough times. This season is over, though, and the Falcons are bad and listless again.
So that’s a general statement of where the Falcons stand heading into their matchup against the Green Bay Packers, but let’s dive into the specifics.
The big move this week, if you can call it that, was Josh Harris going to injured reserve. The effective, durable long snapper had been dealing with injuries this year and has been replaced by veteran Jon Condo for the moment. The long snapper change would be a potential problem if this team were good and in contention, but because they’re not, it’s more of a footnote.
The Falcons let go of veteran safety Keith Tandy—a weird move in a weird year for a once-effective veteran who barely played in Atlanta—and added defensive tackle Justin Zimmer to the roster. Zimmer’s a likely inactive, but the Falcons are going to be shedding Terrell McClain next season and really should see if Zimmer’s got the potential they thought he did when they surprisingly kept him on the roster heading into the 2018 season. If he does, defensive tackle might be less of an urgent need, however slightly.
The Falcons are pretty healthy. Again, though, it’s not health we’re worried about at this stage, given how the team is performing. They won’t be truly, fully healthy again until next summer, when they’ll get back Devonta Freeman, Ricardo Allen, Brandon Fusco and Keanu Neal, among others.
What’s at stake?
Bluntly, very little. The Falcons are out of the playoffs short of the most absurd series of wins and losses you can possibly imagine, and the Packers are similarly dead in the water. All that’s left, as I keep repeating, is pride, and the Falcons haven’t shown a ton of that in recent weeks with the ways they’ve lost.
What’s really at stake is draft position. I’m not a tanking advocate, as anyone who has read this site knows, because I like to enjoy my Sundays and it’s unlikely that one player will dramatically shift your fortune unless that player is a quarterback. But this year has been such a slog, and the Falcons are so dramatically in need of a top lineman, that every win just increases the chances that Atlanta ignores their problems and fails to land a top talent. That’s not the ideal outcome, not anymore.
The Falcons could win this because Green Bay is such a weird, bad team in its own right this year. Without Aaron Rodgers playing at the height of his wizardly powers and with a run defense that has been catastrophically bad of late, the Packers have to win games on the back of their pass rush, secondary and ground game, not a typical recipe for success in Wisconsin. But they’re still probably a better team than the Falcons in their current, sloth-like form, where the offense can’t do anything right and the defense continues to be mediocre at best.
I fully expect Atlanta to lose this one, though I do expect a better effort than they’ve mustered in recent weeks. A win would be a pleasant surprise in some ways, but again, draft status is the only thing that’s really at stake for Atlanta.