Football is finally upon us, after the very long wait we just endured to get through the malaise of the offseason. With it, every fanbase goes into the new campaign with some semblance of hope as each team lines up directly parallel to one another at the starting gate with a 0-0 record.
The Falcons open up the year against the Philadelphia Eagles, in a matchup that’s become something of an early season staple for both teams in recent years. This will be the third time in the past four years in which these two squads have matched up in either Week 1 or Week 2, and the fourth such instance since 2015.
There are many articles on The Falcoholic breaking down every facet of the game — offense vs. defense, key players to watch, score predictions — and I encourage you to check all of that out. This article series won’t go into such depth about the game itself.
Instead, we will look to strip each matchup down to the singular core question faced by any athlete and team in a competitive sport — what happens if victory is achieved, and what happens if defeat is suffered?
This is the third year in which I am doing this article series, and how it evolves throughout the season will be completely up to the Atlanta Falcons. In each of the past two years, this series has degenerated into a de facto “NFL Draft pick watch” because the team started 1-7 in 2019 and 0-5 in 2020, and were completely out of playoff contention before they even saw a snap in the second half of either season. My hope is that the Falcons will play well and give themselves a chance, thus turning this into a more fun series looking at legitimate playoff scenarios.
With that, let’s take a look at circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
It will be the first time the Falcons will have won their season opener since 2017 against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field — they have lost three consecutive Week 1 matchups, a streak which started with an 18-12 defeat in Philadelphia on September 6, 2018.
Before continuing further, I’d like to share with you a statistic that’s so depressingly hilarious that the laughter it invokes would resemble something similar to what we heard from Walter White in the Crawl Space scene of “Breaking Bad.” A victory for the Falcons would see the team move to above .500 for the first time since 2017. Please read that one more time.
The Birds have found themselves with records of 1-3, 1-3 and 0-4 at the end of the season’s first quarter in 2018, 2019 and 2020. For the past three years, this franchise has been the living embodiment of being behind the eight ball. A victory would see them finally get off to a promising start after what feels like an eternity.
Arthur Smith would become the third consecutive Falcons head coach to begin his tenure with a victory in his first game, following Mike Smith’s victory against the Detroit Lions in 2008 and Dan Quinn’s victory against this same Eagles franchise in 2015.
More than anything, a victory would finally signal a bit of hope for a franchise that has been without it since falling short at the goal line of Lincoln Financial Field on that bitter January night in 2018. After experiencing three years of doldrums that have made us all jaded, it feels imperative that this team gets off to a strong start under this new regime.
If the Falcons lose
The Eagles will continue their recent dominance in this series, winning their fourth game against the Falcons in five matchups dating back to the 2016 season.
Even though we are just getting started, this feels like a game the Falcons can ill afford to lose if they want to possibly compete for a playoff spot this year. On paper, the Eagles are one of the weaker teams on their schedule, and this is one of just seven true home games for Atlanta in this campaign (against nine road games and one neutral site game). A defeat would have the home team staring down the barrel of a second consecutive 0-2 start to the season, with a trip to defending champion Tampa Bay coming up in Week 2.
There will be plenty of second guessing from the fanbase as to why Arthur Smith rested the starters throughout the entire preseason, especially if those starters are extra rusty in this matchup.
There’s a chance that Philadelphia and Atlanta could compete for a Wildcard spot against one another this year, and defeat would put the Falcons behind the eight ball once again in terms of record and tiebreaker.
The Falcons will continue their odyssey to get above .500. It couldn’t happen until at least Week 3, and more than likely wouldn’t until much later (if at all) given their Week 2 opponent.