After the grim 0-2 start, it looked like the Falcons might not be competitive at all in 2021. Thankfully, Atlanta rallied and is near .500 at the end of the season, bolstering Terry Fontenot’s repeated claim that this team intended to contend this season. Getting to seven wins with this cap situation, this roster and a first-year coaching staff certainly merits recognition.
One thing the Falcons haven’t done to this point is beat a good football team with a winning record when Atlanta has played them—I’m updating this to note that the Saints, as awful as they’ve become, had one when the Falcons delightfully handed them their butts—and in fact they’ve been blown out of those games repeatedly in 2021. In their eight losses, they’ve been outscored 262-107, with the only close games coming against shaky Washington (34-30) and Carolina (19-13) teams. The teams they’ve beaten, meanwhile, they’ve outscored 171-138, and those teams have a combined record of 37-68. Victories are victories and are welcome—we’re all extremely tired of losing—but there’s a reason so many fans and analysts say “yeah, but” when talking about this team’s 7-8 record. The Saints win is, right now, the crown jewel of the season for many reasons.
This is going to be a critical, busy offseason for this Falcons team regardless of how they finish the year, but the looming game against the Bills is a final opportunity to cross a bucket list item off for Atlanta. By beating Buffalo, the Falcons can not only seal up their best road record since 2017, but also earn that elusive win against a team with a winning record. Given that the team in question is the squad with the best point differential in football and one of the league’s best offenses, it would truly be a statement win, one that would prove Atlanta is capable of triumphing over terrific teams on their best days. That, in turn, would give everyone associated with this team a shot of confidence and an encouraging sign of progress with the offseason just around the corner.
It goes without saying that a win doesn’t feel very likely, given how good the Bills are and the difficulty of winning on the road on what could be a freezing and snowy day for a team with a shaky offensive line. It would be a hugely impressive victory if the Falcons do somehow pull it off, and given that it would constitute a signature win and get the team to .500 in a year where many expected them to be awful, it’s probably on the top of Arthur Smith’s wishlist for the New Year.