Last week, I started off the article praising the Falcons for consistently beating the teams they were supposed to beat throughout the course of this season — something which is a trademark of good teams in the NFL.
Another feather in the cap of the successful NFL team’s identity is the ability to defend their home field by consistently getting wins in their own stadium. This is where Atlanta’s pursuit of becoming a good team flies completely off the rails. The Falcons once again lost at home this past weekend, bringing their record at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season to a putrid 0-5. Their only “home win” of the campaign came in London.
The Carolina Panthers are one of many teams that came into the Benz and walked away with victory, earlier this season. The Birds head to Carolina for a revenge matchup, which maybe even suits them a bit more since it’s on the road — Atlanta’s road record this season is 4-1.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 14, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
Believe it or not, but they would still firmly find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. Moving to 6-7 would at best see the Birds finish the weekend in a four way tie for one of the last two Wildcard spots, and at worst have them one game behind both Washington and San Francisco, each of whom occupy the last two playoff spots. That would come ahead of a crucial matchup against the 49ers next week.
As I said last week, as farfetched as playoff talk may be, it has to be mentioned given the fact that Atlanta is just one game back of a Wildcard spot in what is essentially the home stretch of the season at this point.
This would be a big blow to Carolina’s own postseason hopes, as both teams come into this game at 5-7. It would also set the Panthers up to potentially end the season in the NFC South basement, as they have a gauntlet to run immediately after this game, with matchups coming against the Bills and Saints, as well as the Buccaneers twice.
Arthur Smith would earn his second victory ever against a division rival and his first against Carolina. This would be Matt Ryan’s 17th victory ever against Carolina — the most in his career against any team. He currently has 16 career victories against both the Panthers and Buccaneers.
If the Falcons lose
Then we can start looking toward draft scenarios for the rest of the season. The Birds are currently slated to pick 8th, and a loss could have them as high as 5th by the end of the weekend if the Giants, Bears and Seahawks all win (this is a best case scenario). Atlanta’s very weak strength of schedule will give them the draft tiebreaker over any team this season.
They will find themselves in danger of finishing at the bottom of the NFC South for the second consecutive season. Defeat would also ensure a losing record in division play for Arthur Smith, as the team would be 1-4 against the rest of the NFC South.
Carolina will have swept the season series against Atlanta for the third time in franchise history, the other two instances occurring in 2013 and 1997.
Matt Ryan’s career record against the Panthers will move to 16-11.