The Atlanta Falcons leave the bye week and set their sights on the home stretch of the season. They come out of their break rested, reinvigorated and rejuvenated, hoping to mix those three Rs with a fourth one: Ridder. They also hope to have the end product be a successful finish to the 2022 season and maybe even beyond.
Atlanta’s next opponent is the New Orleans Saints, who are coming off of a bye week of their own, during which they stewed and rued the fourth quarter lead they blew to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which effectively saw any realistic chances at a fifth division crown in six years go the way of the Dodo.
It’s a grudge match, and it’s a December matchup where the Birds, through sheer force of luck, somehow are still playing competitive football with potential playoff implications on the line. Even if these teams were winless, however, this game between one another will always be the one each circled on the calendar way back when the scheduled was released.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Saints in Week 15, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will firmly announce themselves as a team that’s not quite dead yet as far as playoff implications are concerned. A victory paired with a Bucs loss against a red hot Cincinnati Bengals team will see Atlanta tied atop the NFC South with three games remaining.
FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Falcons a 5% chance of making the playoffs. Victory this weekend paired with losses by the Bucs and Panthers would see those odds rise up to 22%. It’s still going to be difficult, but that can be classified as a puncher’s chance. As a bonus, the Falcons would officially mathematically eliminate the Saints from playoff contention.
Going even beyond that, they will celebrate a victory in New Orleans, against the Saints, which is priceless. It will be the second consecutive win at the Superdome for the Birds, and the first time they will have won in Louisiana two years in a row since 2001/2002.
Atlanta will also move their head to head record against the Saints to 55-53, ensuring that New Orleans will not be able to pull ahead for at least another year. There is no better way for Desmond Ridder to start his time as the Falcons QB than with a victory against the hated rivals — the vibes would be immaculate.
If the Falcons lose
Playoff hopes will be all but eradicated, and they will die at the hands of the dreaded Saints on Louisiana soil. Even in a best case scenario where the Bucs and Panthers also lose this weekend, FiveThirtyEight projects that Atlanta’s playoff chances would still drop down to 2%, making it a near impossibility even if elimination may not quite yet be mathematical.
The Falcons, who are currently at pick 10 in the draft, could move as high as pick four just this weekend if all other scores go their way. If nothing else, they are guaranteed to at least move up to pick nine no matter what, as they would jump the Saints (or should I say the Eagles, who own the New Orleans first rounder this year).
The rivals from the Bayou would tie the all time series for the first time since 1969, when the head to head record between these teams was 1-1 before the Falcons rattled off eight straight wins and never looked back. This is the culmination of a lot of winning the Saints have done since 2006, all but eliminating a 14-game edge the Falcons owned in the series before that year.
This would also be the second time the Saints have swept the Birds in the past three years, and the third time in the past five years. Arthur Smith’s record against New Orleans would fall to 1-3.