How dangerous can the Atlanta Falcons be down the stretch? Let’s take a look.
It is amazing what a bye week can do for some teams. In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, that off weekend allowed the team to readjust and reconstruct their once 1-7 team. Now, after a two-game winning streak that includes wins over division rivals New Orleans and Carolina by a combined score of 55-12, the Falcons have the look of a team that is refreshed and with a look in their eyes.
That look that says they can play spoiler as the regular season winds down.
First things first, technically, the Falcons are not mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs. Even with their 3-7 record. It is definitely a long shot that they find themselves playoff-bound. However, with their schedule, they have the chance to ruin a season or change the playoff landscape if they keep their solid play up.
Remaining on the slate is an important matchup on Thanksgiving with their arch rivals, New Orleans Saints. Their first meeting in Week 10 saw the Falcons deliver a thumping to the Saints, 26-9. The Saints were in possession of the #2 seed in the NFL playoff seeding prior to that game but the loss to the Falcons knocked them down a peg to the #3 seed. If you are familiar with the playoff system, that means that the Saints would not obtain that coveted first round bye and be forced to play three playoff games in order to reach the Super Bowl. The Saints simply play better at home, so that’s a big deal.
Beating the Saints once again will ruin those chances of gaining a higher seed in the playoffs. In what can possibly be a lost season, that sweet taste of tarnishing the Saints playoff road will be nourishing to every Falcons fan possible.
Rumors of the Panthers moving on from head coach Ron Rivera reached a higher volume after the Falcons wiped the Panthers, 29-3 this past Sunday. The Panthers are now sitting at 5-5 after a 4-2 start to the season. The Panthers have lost seven of their last eight to the Falcons and the 26-point win over Carolina was the largest over the Panthers since 2011. The team is already in the midst of having discussions swirling of the team moving on from franchise quarterback Cam Newton. The two foes will meet again in Week 14 in Atlanta and that contest may be the tipping point of Rivera’s tenure and can possibly be the contest to end the Panthers playoff hopes.
Also remaining on the Falcons schedule is a road contest against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15. While the Niners have looked impressive overall during the season at 9-1, they have had close contests against the Steelers, the Cardinals, and the Redskins that all ended in victories in single-digit deficits. The Niners have greatly improved but they have also showed that they can be vulnerable. Not to mention, the factor of facing Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan may be a legit motivational tool for the Falcons.
All in all, the Falcons have a few opportunities to wreck the seasons of some teams based on their greatly improved play as of late. Of course, the element of consistency is important here and the Falcons must keep improving. The past two victories have showed their capability. They may not be playoff bound but they do have the potential to be a team no one wants to face down the stretch.