The most frustrating defeats are the ones where multiple things go wrong, and if just one of those things went your way the result would have been different. The Falcons had such a game against the Chargers, where Marcus Mariota missed a wide open Kyle Pitts deep multiple times, Drake London had the ball taken from him by Khalil Mack, Younghoe Koo missed a kick, and Ta’Quon Graham fumbled a fumble. The result was a three-point loss.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Birds, who now face a rematch against a Carolina Panthers team they defeated just 11 days ago. This time the setting has shifted to Charlotte, and first place in the division could once again be at stake for the team from the A.
This is the only game this season where the eyes of America will exclusively be on a Falcons game, as it is Atlanta and Carolina’s only nationally televised game of the season.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Panthers in Week 10, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will move back into first place in the NFC South, until at the very least the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play on Sunday. The Bucs re-tied the Birds for first place after their last gasp win against the Rams this past weekend, and they currently own the tiebreaker. Atlanta would consolidate first place with a Bucs defeat against Seattle.
In the Wildcard race, Atlanta is currently the first team on the outside looking in, tied with the Washington Commanders. Even if they don’t grab hold of first in the division, they will move into the final Wildcard spot with a 49ers defeat against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
The Falcons would shake off Sunday’s bitter defeat and get back on track, once again putting themselves at .500 in terms of both overall record and division record. They will also be the only team in the NFC South to sweep the Panthers this season, as Carolina has beaten both the Saints and Bucs thus far.
Atlanta would register its third consecutive victory against an NFC team and move its record within conference to 4-3. This has the potential to matter a lot when it comes to tiebreaker scenarios for the Wildcard at the end of the season.
If the Falcons lose
They will fall to a full one game back of the Buccaneers with a Tampa win on Sunday, also boasting a 1-3 division record which does not bode well for them when it comes to a potential end of season tiebreak. Speaking of which, this would officially become the third straight season where the Falcons will not finish with a winning record against the rest of their division.
Atlanta would move to 1.5 games back of the 49ers for the NFC’s crucial 7-seed with a San Fran victory on Sunday, and they would potentially move to one game back of the Washington Commanders in that chase as well with a Washington victory against the Eagles.
More than anything, this may be the primary game we look back on at the end of the season if the Falcons end up missing out on the playoffs by just a game. Winning games against teams such at the 2-7 Panthers is non-negotiable for a team with post season aspirations, which is what the Falcons have become.