It’s never fun to watch the Falcons lose. It’s more frustrating when they drop a game by less than one touchdown.
The Falcons did that to us quite a bit last season. Of their nine losses, four were decided by fewer than seven points. On the flip side, two of the team’s seven wins were within a score of being losses.
In a game that close, it can go either way. Our friends at Pride of Detroit took a look at this across the league, and now we’re going to dig into what might have been if the results of all of the Falcons’ one-score games last season were reversed.
Week 1: Falcons vs. Eagles
The defending Super Bowl champs at the time won this one by just six points. It proved to be a costly loss for Atlanta, as Deion Jones and Keanu Neal landed on injured reserve after sustaining injuries in the close loss.
So in this make-believe world, let’s flip it and say Atlanta wins this one 18-12. They probably still lose two of their best defenders to injury, anyway, but they’d start the season off with a little momentum and some pride from beating the team that knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs the previous postseason.
Week 2: Panthers vs. Falcons
In reality, Week 2 of the 2018 season was a morale-building win over the division rival Panthers. But since this was another close one, with the Falcons sneaking past Carolina 31-24, in this fake news version of the Falcons’ season, the Falcons lose.
That gives Atlanta a costly division loss early in the season, and the exact same record they started with in real life.
Week 3: Saints vs. Falcons
The worst possible close losses are the ones the Falcons suffer at the hands of the dreaded Saints. This is where this exercise gets pretty fun, because now we get to pretend that the Falcons actually beat the Saints in overtime, 43-37.
That evens up the division record, gets the Falcons off to a solid start to the season, and gives us all trash talking material to use against the Saints until Week 12.
Week 4: Bengals vs. Falcons
I’m still annoyed about this one. There’s no excuse for losing to the Bengals, who finished the season 6-10 and at the bottom of the AFC North behind the Browns, at all. There’s even less justification for losing to them AT HOME by one point.
In this brave new “What If” world, the Falcons win this one, 37-36. Not a bad start to the year.
Week 5: Falcons vs. Steelers
There’s no changing the result of this one, because the Falcons got their asses handed to them 41-17. Yuck.
Week 6: Buccaneers vs. Falcons
This was another squeaker, as the Falcons barely pulled it out 34-29 against the division rival to the south. So for the purposes of this exercise, Atlanta blew this one. Just pretend like the Week 17 win and the Week 6 loss were switched on the schedule.
Week 7: Giants vs. Falcons
We went to this game, and we had a spectacular time, in part because the Falcons won 23-20. Some alternate universe version of me did not enjoy this game, because we’re flipping the result to a Falcons loss. That puts Atlanta below .500 heading into the bye. So far, flipping the close games hasn’t changed the outcome for the Falcons, but it has given us a win over the Saints, and that in and of itself is worth it.
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: Falcons vs. Washington
This was another blowout, with the Falcons winning 38-14. No changes here.
Week 10: Falcons vs. Browns
The Browns won this one 28-16, so no changes here, either. Just remembering how stupid this game was is making me mad.
Week 11: Cowboys vs. Falcons
Now we’re talking. Dallas pulled this one out, beating the Falcons in Atlanta 19-22. So we’ll say the Falcons won 22-19. Suck on that, Cowboys.
Week 12: Falcons vs. Saints
It’s too bad this one wasn’t a close loss, because it would have been fun to sweep the Saints in this completely made up scenario. But this one, which we all had to suffer through on Thanksgiving Day, wasn’t close. The Saints keep their 31-17 win.
Week 13: Ravens vs. Falcons
This one also wasn’t close, so the 26-16 victory stays in the Ravens’ win column. My goodness, the Falcons were frustrating last year.
Week 14: Falcons vs. Packers
A December game at Lambeau Field is a nightmare for a southern dome team, and it went about as well as anyone would have expected. The Packers get to keep their 34-20 win.
Week 15: Cardinals vs. Falcons
The Falcons turned around and kicked the daylights out of the Cardinals at home, 40-14. Important note: This is the first Falcons win this season that came by more than one score.
Week 16: Falcons vs. Panthers
The Falcons get to keep this one, too, after beating the Panthers 24-10.
Week 17: Falcons vs. Buccaneers
If you’re pro-tanking, this is the game you WANTED the Falcons to lose. Well, now you retroactively get your wish. Instead of a 34-32 win, the Falcons lose this one, locking up a pretty sweet draft position.
Flipping the results of all of Atlanta’s close games didn’t have as great of an impact as I expected. I remembered the close losses vividly, so I assumed, if anything, we’d see an improvement in the record. Nope! The alternative facts Falcons exactly the same as they did in reality.
I assumed the biggest impact here might have been draft position. Atlanta would have been picking at No. 7 if they’d really lost to Tampa Bay in Week 17 and finished 6-0. But with no change to the overall record, things we’d still have seen the Falcons pick at No. 14.
The other big takeaway from this is, my goodness, I hope that this team will be better next season.