The optimism within the fan base is much greater now than it was at this time last week; getting a big victory against a very good conference opponent will do that.
Next, the Falcons head to Indianapolis for a road date with the Colts. It’s never easy winning on the road in this league, but this should be an easier test for the Birds than either of the first two games they’ve played this season, especially with All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard not playing. These also are not Andrew Luck’s Colts anymore.
It’s that time of the week again — the game is less than 24 hours from kicking off, and football fever is nearing its weekly climax.
Let’s take a look at the hypotheticals of this game — what if the Falcons win and move their record to a game above .500 at 2-1? What if they lose and fall to 1-2?
If the Falcons win
This isn’t a conference game, and thus does not carry any tiebreaker stipulations. However, it counts toward the overall record all the same.
AFC opponents have been a bit of an Achilles heel for Dan Quinn’s Falcons, who have a paltry 1-7 record against the opposing conference over the past two years.
These are the games which have cost the Falcons dearly in the final standings of late — the 2017 home losses against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills ended up costing the Birds a division title, and the shortcomings against the the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns cost them a shot at the post season last year. I mention these games specifically because Atlanta went into them as the favorites, just like they will be doing this Sunday. A win would help Quinn begin flipping the script against inferior AFC opponents, who have just had his number.
A victory would also see the Falcons build on the momentum of Week 2’s success, and move their record above .500 for the first time since 2017. I don’t have to comment on the psychological difference a team possesses when their record is over .500 as opposed to the opposite.
A win would also likely see the Birds move to a full game ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South standings, as the Saints travel to Seattle with Teddy Bridgewater under center. If the Falcons are truly going to take advantage of Drew Brees having to miss time, they’ll have to get out to as big of a lead as possible in the NFC South while the Pro Bowl quarterback is sidelined (I know what you’re thinking and no, I don’t see Tampa Bay as a real threat to win this division).
If the Falcons lose
Obviously a loss wouldn’t spell the end of the season; the Falcons are in a position where their backs aren’t completely against the wall as they would have been had they not gotten the job done against the Eagles.
However, the disappointment will be prevalent if they don’t come out of Indianapolis with a victory. This is a Colts team which isn’t putting fear into any hearts, and which is missing its best defensive player. To lose and fall to 1-2 would be rough, psychologically.
A loss would also take away any chance of moving into first place in the division this week. In the off chance that New Orleans wins in Seattle, defeat would propel the Falcons right back to a position where they trail the Saints, like after Week 1.
More than anything, a defeat would see the AFC continue to flex its hold over Dan Quinn’s football team — the Falcons would move to 6-11 against AFC opponents since Quinn took over as head coach in 2015.
While conference record wouldn’t be affected, we don’t want to be sitting here late in the season and regretting yet another loss against a mediocre AFC team as it costs the Falcons in the standings, as it has each of the past two seasons.