Welcome to the 2020 NFL season. We’ve finally made it to the starting point of the new campaign, with every team lining up side by side and waiting for the starting gun to set them off.
This is a series dedicated to looking at the major “what if” scenario for the Atlanta Falcons every week, and asking the simple question — what if the Falcons win, and what if the Falcons lose? We’ll take a look at both scenarios for each and every game.
The trajectory of this series will be dependent on the team’s performance. It will start out looking at big picture potential playoff implications down the line. If the team plays well and is in the hunt for a postseason berth, then we’ll be looking at divisional and Wildcard scenarios on a week to week basis. If they fall out of the hunt early on, then this series will devolve into looking at draft standings (like it did last year).
All we can do is take things one week at a time, and there’s no better way to start than looking at Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks — what if the Falcons win and start the year 1-0? What if they get off on the wrong foot at 0-1?
If the Falcons Win
It will end a streak of back to back seasons with painful Week 1 finishes and subsequent losses, and will be just the second time the Falcons start the season off 1-0 since 2015 (Dan Quinn’s rookie season as the head coach; 2017 was the other 1-0 start).
Matt Ryan will move his career record against the Seattle Seahawks to 5-2 (including 2-0 in the playoffs). Ryan missed the matchup against the Seahawks last season, breaking a 10+ year iron man streak — it was just the third missed game in his 12-year career. Matt Schaub went for 460 yards and almost completed a spirited second-half comeback.
This will be a big win for the Falcons to not only get off on the right foot in the 2020 season (something they couldn’t do in Week 1 in 2019 and 2018), but also to deal a blow to a potential Wildcard competitor down the stretch.
Seattle was a Wildcard representative in 2019, and with the reigning NFC Champion 49ers are once again favored to win the NFC West, they’re a Wildcard favorite in 2020 as well. The Falcons are also expected to compete for a Wildcard spot this season with New Orleans the favorite to conquer the NFC South. A win would give Atlanta the tiebreaker over Pete Carroll’s squad in case it’s needed after the regular season ends (and it very well might be).
If the Falcons lose
It will mark just the second loss in a home opener in the Matt Ryan era (2016 against the Bucs was the only such defeat). Even in the worst of seasons, the Falcons have consistently won their first home game of the season. In 2019 that game was against the Eagles on Sunday Night, and in 2018 it was against the Panthers.
The Falcons will start the new season at 0-1 for the third consecutive year, and will remain a team that has not had a winning record at any point since 2017 (which feels surreal to type out). The closest they have gotten to being above .500 in that time-period was when they were 4-4 in 2018. They proceeded to lose their ensuing five games after that reaching that mark.
The defeat would put Seattle on the front foot in the aforementioned potential Wildcard race, and will put Atlanta on the back foot in the divisional race from the start. The winner of the game between Tampa Bay and New Orleans will immediately take the division lead.
Looking forward, the Falcons have an arguably more difficult matchup in Week 2 against the Dallas Cowboys. Defeat would see them stare down the barrel of an 0-2 record to begin the new campaign. The fanbase will likely panic.