Despite a lopsided loss to the 49ers in Week 15, the Atlanta Falcons are still very much alive in the playoff race. While it’ll take quite a bit of magic—like a 2-0 finish against the Bills and Saints and several other Wild Card contenders losing out the rest of the way—it’s still possible for Atlanta to reach the postseason. That’s quite an achievement for a team considered the worst in the league by DVOA.
Coming off a victory over the lowly Detroit Lions in Week 16, the Falcons have improved to 7-8. That’s already a 3-win improvement over 2020 with what appears to be a worse roster overall. While Arthur Smith certainly deserves his fair share of criticism for the offense’s struggles, he also deserves some props for consistently beating the bad teams on the schedule.
Following the win over Detroit, we once again asked Falcons fans to respond to our SB Nation Reacts survey. We asked fans about their confidence in the team’s direction, as always, but also posed a question on a topic that has been brought up a lot in recent weeks: should Atlanta consider trading Matt Ryan this offseason?
It’s not surprising, but Falcons fans are pretty split on their preference surrounding Ryan. Currently, fans seem to favor trying to trade Ryan this offseason: 55% said they’d support such a trade, while 45% would rather keep Ryan.
I can definitely see the appeal for both sides. With Aaron Rodgers reportedly planning to stay in Green Bay and Deshaun Watson’s legal situation still unresolved, the once-promising QB trade market has cooled off significantly. If Atlanta was interested in putting Ryan on the block, this could be a good time to do so. Much would depend on the trade compensation, as the Falcons would need to eat $40M in dead cap—although they’d still save $8M—and have no other quarterback options on the roster.
With Ryan only under contract through 2023, the team has a decision to make this offseason. Atlanta’s options are limited. An extension is the best way to clear cap over the next few years, but would add a lot more guaranteed money to Ryan’s contract. A void-year restructure could clear up to $11M this year, but would continue spreading cap hits into the future. A trade could net significant assets, but doing it pre-June 1st saves just $8M. Post-June 1st moves would save a lot more money—around $22-25M—but it’s hard to pull off a trade that late.
We also asked fans about their confidence in the team’s direction after Sunday’s win over Detroit.
The Lions win led to a small boost for Falcons fans, improving to 64% confidence in the team’s direction. It’s a nice rebound after confidence plummeted into the low 50s following the loss to San Francisco. As you can see from the graphic, fan confidence has been all over the place this season—largely due to the team’s near-.500 record and up-and-down style of play.
With two games remaining in the season, there’s still an opportunity for Atlanta to finish with a winning record and possibly even sneak into the 7th seed. The Falcons will have to pull off the upset over the Bills—a game in which they’re approximately 14-point underdogs—and then complete the sweep over the hated Saints. I won’t say it’s likely, but it’s possible!
If you’re interested in having your voice heard, head over to SBNation Reacts and sign up.