It’s a free fall for the Falcons, losers now losers in three of their last four games. Atlanta goes into its final three games mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, and with matchups remaining against teams that will be surely be playing in January.
One of those teams is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the Falcons will meet twice in the last three weeks. If you’re interested in listening, I joined our sister SBNation Bucs podcast to help preview this game and to talk negatively about Dirk Koetter.
Let’s dive into the major what if scenario this week, looking at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and looking at if they lose, now that football is less than 24 hours away from being played again.
If the Falcons win
I should add a disclaimer that the Falcons “winning” has been an exercise in pure theory the past few weeks and that’s what it feels like it will be again this week. Even if they win out, Atlanta will finish below .500 for the third consecutive season.
As a result, we’re all in on draft pick watch. If the season were to end today, the Birds would be flipping a coin with the Panthers for the rights to the 5th overall pick. A victory this week could drop the Falcons all the way to the 11th pick. With the Panthers, Texans, Eagles, Giants, Lions and Broncos (Atlanta’s direct competition in that 4-9 and 5-8 range) all underdogs in their matchups with teams who are above .500, a win would likely drop Atlanta’s draft positioning like an anchor.
A Falcon victory would also see the Saints clinch the NFC South title, as a result of them owning the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers. The Saints face the Chiefs this week and can clinch the division with a win, but even if they lose they have an avenue in securing mathematical decisiveness through Atlanta.
The Falcons’ head to head record with the Bucs will move to 29-25 all time. The Birds have won six of the past seven matchups head to head and will continue flexing their muscle against the team from Tampa.
Atlanta will beat Tom Brady for the first time ever.
If the Falcons lose
The march up the draft standings will continue in earnest. Atlanta finished Week 14 in 7th place in the order (tied with Carolina for 6th, in what would result in a coin toss). Due to the Chargers’ victory on Thursday night, they will move up at least one spot this week. They stand to move up an extra spot if Dallas can beat the 49ers (could happen) or if Carolina can beat the Packers (not very likely).
Tampa Bay wouldn’t outright clinch a playoff spot but their odds of doing so would rocket to <99%, and they would remain in play for the division title for at least another week if New Orleans loses to the Chiefs.
The Falcons would be guaranteed their worst season record wise since 2014, when they went 6-10 but were actually still in the playoff hunt until the last moment.
Tom Brady’s career record against Atlanta will move to 7-0.