The question on just about everybody’s mind after Week 6 is a simple one: Can the Falcons build on their impressive 40-23 win over the Vikings, or was that the sort of one game bounce that many teams with interim head coaches get?
The answer to that question has huge ramifications. The Falcons are, as Evan Birchfield noted last night, not clinically dead, as three 1-5 teams have made the playoffs, two of them in recent history. That’s not even speaking to the expanded playoff field this year, something that may matter with so many expected contenders in the NFC looking shakier than anticipated. Every win, meanwhile, takes the Falcons out of the running for a top quarterback in the upcoming draft class, which is something that might be enticing for an incoming GM and coach who want to pivot toward their own guys in 1-2 years.
I turned to our staff to see what they think lies ahead for this team.
Simple word. We have always known the Falcons have the talent level to at least contend, but whether by injury or coaching or simple execution failures, they’ve failed to live up that promise over and over again in recent years. For one week, they put it together, annihilating the Vikings by forcing three turnovers, putting 40 on the board, and holding the Vikings largely in check on the day. With a slate full of so-so teams in the immediate future and plenty of always wild divisional games approaching, I think there’s a real chance we’ll see this team at least hanging in games they would’ve gone away quietly in just a week or two ago. Whether they do so will mean a lot for Raheem Morris and some of these players, but it will also lead to a lot of questions about the timing of the move and what Dan Quinn was actually getting out of this squad. —Dave Choate
This team can’t convince me they can or can’t do anything
No doubt that this was a very good start. The Vikings are a bad team and immediately make me regret ever wanting Gary Kubiak. Yuck. Just a very bad team. However, the Falcons did exactly what a good team should do against a bad team — beat the hell out of them. The Vikings were never in the game and never looked like the better team. This was the best performance from the Falcons perhaps in years, as the team has struggled to put it all together for four quarters in both wins and losses. I can’t guess what the Falcons will do. Will they respond when facing tougher competition? Will we see more inconsistency? Maybe, but what was one hell of a job by Morris who was dealing with so much turmoil and distraction this week between firings and COVID-19. We are almost certainly saying goodbye to Trevor Lawrence (no way the Falcons could beat the Jets in the race to the bottom), but that game was so much fun even though we were all waiting for a collapse that never happened. — Matt Chambers
It’s too early to tell
You’re looking for answers to this question and I’ve contributed nothing in that pursuit. We see it happen often in the NFL — a coach gets fired midseason and the team responds with an inspired performance in the very next game under the new interim coach. That game for the Falcons also wasn’t exactly against a Super Bowl contender, as the Vikings now sit with a 1-5 record just like Atlanta. I’m not discounting the possibility that this could be the beginning of a turnaround, but there’s no way to know until we see how they follow this performance up over the course of the next few games. — Adnan Ikic
More wins yes, playoffs ... who knows
Here’s the thing about this roster - we knew they had quite a bit of talent and at critical spots. Despite his detractors crawling out of their caves to celebrate his end zone interception last week, Matt Ryan is still a quality starting QB you can win with. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are an incredible one-two punch and the offensive line has been retooled enough to be effective. While the defense has issues, it felt a lot like underperformance especially from Deion Jones and half of the secondary. Now that they’ve lived up to their “potential,” more wins seems like a certainty. Can they rack up 6 to 8? Maybe, if things break their way more often. And they may even get close enough to be on the fringes of that 7th playoff spot, especially with the NFC being a hot and cold mess right now. That could be enough to keep us all interested even if the end results ultimately fall short. - David Walker
I honestly have no idea
Will the Falcons keep this up? Who knows. We need more than one game against a now 1-5 Vikings team. I will say that the game wasn’t close. The score may seem closer, but it was 33-7 well into the fourth quarter before the Vikings got some junk time scoring in. This Falcons team overall looked more competitive and didn’t necessarily let off the gas as we’re used to seeing. I hope it continues; I really do. As a fan, even though they’ll likely miss the playoffs, you never want to cheer for your team to lose. Losing would certainly help draft stock, but you’ll never convince the current coaches and players to tank. Looking ahead with games against the Lions, Panthers and Broncos before the week 10 bye, the Falcons could easily be 4-5. The schedule then gets insanely difficult, and it will truly be a test for Raheem Morris and company. I’m still predicting a 4-12 finish, but I won’t be shocked if they win a few more than that. - Evan Birchfield
Are they even ready for this question?
Despite the circumstances the team has played alongside this entire season, their first win of the season over the Minnesota Vikings was one of the more complete victories that we have seen from this team probably since their Super Bowl run in 2016. The passing game looked crisp, the speed on defense was present quite often, and they even generated timely turnovers that were converted into offensive scores.
But, yes there is a but. It’s their first win of the season, which came almost at the midway point of the season. Plus it came against a one win Vikings team that was missing their best player and a couple of key defensive starters. Credit should be given to this team as they took the field with fire in their eyes and energy that we have not seen all season. But the question ‘Can they keep this up?’ is probably a better inquiry after a developed winning streak of multiple games. Not exactly a win over a Vikings team that’s on the brink of mailing it in this season. - Eric Robinson
The Falcons will look better over the final 10 games
Atlanta went out and shellacked the Vikings on the road in Week 6. It was nice to see the team finally play up to their talent level. However, I don’t think we can really draw any conclusions from this game. Under Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich, I think this team will be more aggressive on both offense and defense. I think that will translate to more wins, and still believe this team is likely to finish somewhere between 4-12 and 6-10.
At the end of the day, the Falcons are still a deeply flawed team that is unlikely to keep pace with true contenders. As I said going into Sunday, Minnesota featured a defense that Atlanta’s offense could outclass from a talent perspective. Koetter’s offense can look pretty darn good against opponents like that. But against average or better defenses, the offense often looks like it did against the Packers and Panthers. It’s going to be hard to win many games with a below-average defense and a volatile offense, but Atlanta is perfectly capable of getting it done against lesser teams. - Kevin Knight