Well, last Sunday’s disaster was one way to completely take the wind out of our sails of excitement for the 2020 season. It wasn’t as bad as last year’s Week 1 shellacking at the hands of the Vikings (the first half was at least competitive), but that’s no comfort given how bad the second half looked.
The Falcons go on the road for the first time this season this upcoming Sunday, and their travels will take them to Jerry Jones’ palace — AT&T Stadium — to face a Dallas Cowboys team coming off of their own Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Rams.
Let’s dive into the major what if scenario this week, looking at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they win in Dallas and looking at if they lose, now that football is under 24 hours away from being played once again.
If the Falcons win
A lot of the panic from Week 1’s defeat will subside, the way we saw it subside last season with the Week 2 victory over the Eagles following the Week 1 embarrassment in Minnesota (and then it reached critical mass in the coming weeks when the losses piled up).
A win in Dallas will make the Seahawks defeat a lot easier to swallow knowing it wasn’t compounded with another poor performance.
The Falcons will back on track in regard to the divisional standings as well. A win coupled with a Saints loss on Monday Night Football will put the Falcons right back into a tie for first place. Even if the Saints win, the Birds will remain just a game back. Remember, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is looking older and Michael Thomas could be out for weeks, so a win is not a given for them.
Dallas has their own divisional race to focus on, but they also have the potential to be a future Wildcard competitor to Atlanta if neither team finishes at the top of their divisional standings. Pushing the Cowboys down to 0-2 while simultaneously taking hold of the tiebreaker over them could be very valuable down the line, especially after they just lost out on a tiebreaker with Seattle.
More than anything, a win will ease the pressure a bit off the team. They’re feeling the heat following another disastrous Week 1, and going to Dallas and coming away 1-1 will be a massive morale booster. The schedule eases up over the next six games as well, so a win in Dallas could be the springboard Dan Quinn’s team needs to go on an early season run.
If the Falcons lose
Faith in this team from the fanbase will reach near rock bottom levels, as we go down the path of “here we go again.” The Falcons would fall to 0-2 for the first time since the 2007 season. Fewer than 12% of teams who have started 0-2 have made the playoffs since 2007. While that stat is harrowing, we should remember that there is an extra Wildcard spot which was added this year.
Atlanta would potentially immediately start falling well behind the Saints in the divisional race, as New Orleans would have an opportunity to take a quick two-game lead over the Birds in the blink of an eye with a victory on Monday Night. One of Tampa Bay or Carolina (who play each other) will also get out ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South standings.
Dan Quinn would taste defeat in Week 2 for the first time in his head coaching career, and it would be the worst possible season for that kind of start, as his seat will be getting warmer with each passing defeat.
Atlanta would lose ground, and the tiebreaker, to another potential Wildcard competitor, and their conference record (which is another major tiebreaker looked at) would fall to a quick 0-2.
Panic would consume the fanbase but I don’t think it should just yet — Dallas, like Seattle, is a very good team with playoff aspirations, and Atlanta’s schedule over the next six games will lighten up significantly (Bears, Lions, Panthers x2 are four of their next six). I’ll be moving closer and closer toward pressing the panic button if they fall to 0-3, however.