We’ve finally made it to the end of this disaster of a season, with now just one game remaining between us and what promises to be an exciting offseason for the Falcons. Atlanta is coming off of one of their most impressive showings of the year, going toe to toe with the Chiefs and losing on a last second missed field goal.
Next is a date with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers for the second time in three weeks. This is also the third consecutive season in which the Falcons will play at Tampa Bay in Week 17. None of those games have meant anything for the Birds as far as the playoff picture is concerned.
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
They’ll beat the Bucs in Week 17 for the third consecutive season and will potentially jeopardize Tampa’s chances of finishing the season in the five seed, which matters because the Bucs would go from playing the winner of the NFC East to having to travel to Seattle or New Orleans if they were to fall into the sixth seed (the Rams would need to beat the Cardinals as well for this to come to fruition).
Atlanta will jeopardize their top five draft selection. A win could make that pick fall as low as 10th in a catastrophic scenario. The Falcons will still be able to get a really good player in the back half of the top 10, but would lose leverage when it comes to a potential trade back scenario (which is a possibility now that Thomas Dimitroff is no longer the GM).
Atlanta would move into third place in the division if Carolina were to also lose to the Saints, due to the common games tiebreaker. This would set the Falcons up for games against the Minnesota Vikings and this Sunday’s loser between the Rams and Cardinals, next season.
The Birds will get that elusive first ever win against Tom Brady, who is 7-0 against them in his career.
If the Falcons lose
They will lock into either the third or fourth overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Atlanta picks third if one of two scenarios comes to fruition (combined with a loss of their own of course):
1) The Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans this Sunday (we should all be Texans fans for that one).
2) The Texans lose to the Titans, but enough teams who were on Houston’s schedule this year win and enough teams who were on Atlanta’s schedule this year lose in Week 17 to give the Texans a harder overall strength of schedule, which would move the Falcons ahead of Miami (whom the Texans owe their pick to) in the draft order. If the strength of schedule is equal, then a coin toss will determine the selections.
Atlanta will finish in last place within the division for the first time since 2007. This is significant because it will give Atlanta a fourth-place schedule. They will face the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers next season, as both of those teams have clinched last place in their own divisions.
The Falcons will end the season on a five-game losing streak.