After a disgusting performance up in Minnesota to kick off the season, the Falcons host the Philadelphia Eagles in their home opener this week, on Sunday Night Football.
The Eagles are coming off of a victory against Case Keenum and Washington in their season opener and will look to keep momentum going against a Falcons team they have beaten in each of the past three seasons.
The latter two of those victories happened with starting quarterback Carson Wentz sidelined, and with Nick Foles under center. However, all three of those games were also played in Philadelphia. Atlanta is the host city this time around.
Let’s take a look at the hypotheticals of this game — what if the Falcons win and bring their record back to .500? What if they lose and fall to 0-2?
If the Falcons win:
This team and this fanbase needs a mental reset after getting terrorized in Minnesota, and a win on Sunday night would bring that about. The Vikings and Eagles are two very good teams who are among favorites to make the playoffs in the NFC; if you come out of this two-game stretch at 1-1 there’s no shame in that.
A win against a very good Eagles team would grant some peace of mind in knowing that the game in Minnesota was nothing more than an anomaly and a bump in the road.
Philadelphia is also an NFC team the Falcons may be competing against for a Wild Card spot this season — remember, neither of these teams won their respective divisions last year. A victory would bring about a tie in the standings, and give Atlanta a very valuable head-to-head tiebreaker in the event of matching records after Week 17.
Looking at the early division race, the New Orleans Saints have a tough matchup on tap away against the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. A New Orleans loss in that game paired with a Falcons victory will see the Birds move into a tie for the division lead.
Atlanta’s next four games after this one come against the Colts, Titans, Texans, and Cardinals — not exactly a gauntlet. It would be nice to generate some momentum and self-confidence with a primetime victory against a good team before going into this portion of the schedule. Following a win on Sunday, wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Falcons running through each of those teams and starting the season 5-1 — then we would really be looking at that Vikings game as an anomaly.
If the Falcons lose:
Well, an 0-2 start to the season is never ideal. It hurts even more when each of those two losses come against conference opponents whom you may be directly competing against for a playoff spot later on in the season.
The Falcons would potentially find themselves two games back in the Wild Card race depending on other scores around the league. They would also fall to two games back in the division race if the Saints secure a win in Los Angeles. While there is still a lot of season left to be played, that’s an unenviable hole to have to dig yourself out of right from the start.
If the Eagles can’t overcome the Cowboys in the NFC East and the Falcons can’t overcome the Saints in the NFC South, then these teams would indeed clash in the Wild Card race. Atlanta would essentially already be 2.5 games back of Philadelphia in that race (two games back in the standings, and a lost tiebreaker which is basically another half game).
Diving even deeper within the tiebreakers, conference record is what’s primarily looked at in case of matching records between three or more teams, in the Wild Card race. Atlanta’s conference record would already be at 0-2 if they suffer defeat on Sunday.
Losing the first two games wouldn’t be a death sentence quite yet for the Falcons, but it would back them into a corner and put on a lot of pressure going into Week 3’s matchup against the Colts. While I feel that the team could sweep that four-game stretch after Week 2, things could just as easily spiral out of control; especially if they’re going into those games with the added pressure of already having dug themselves into a hole.