The Atlanta Falcons are finding themselves closer and closer to the wall, their back facing it, more so now than ever following last weekend’s brutal defeat against the Washington Commanders. They had better start swinging and fighting themselves closer to safety before it’s too late.
This week, the Birds host the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers, in a game which they cannot afford to lose for theoretical and practical purposes, even if it won’t eliminate them mathematically just yet.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Steelers in Week 13, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will put pressure on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the top of the division, and could even move into first place in the NFC South with a 6-7 record, if their victory is paired with a Tampa loss to New Orleans. FiveThirtyEight currently gives Atlanta a 17% of making the playoffs — that figure jumps to 32% with victory and a Bucs defeat, and still increases to 23% even if Tampa wins.
The Birds will have a good feeling going into their bye week, as they will be getting prepared to make that final push over the course of the last four games after Week 14. If they lose, however, we may see the team pull the plug on any playoff hopes and come out of the bye testing out more of their younger players.
Atlanta will move to within 1.5 games of the final Wildcard spot in the NFC no matter what, as either the Commanders or the Giants will lose in their head to head clash. They will still be alive and in contention for that parachute in case they do not win the division.
The Birds will get just their third victory ever against the Steelers, and first since 2006. They will also guarantee that Pittsburgh suffers its first official losing season since 2003.
If the Falcons lose
Those division hopes will start to look more and more unattainable. Either the Bucs will move to 1.5 games ahead, tanking the Birds’ playoff odds to 6% (FiveThirtyEight), or the Saints will join them in a tie for second place, making Week 15’s clash a defacto elimination game.
They will either remain 2.0 games back of the Commanders for the final Wildcard spot, also having lost the tiebreak, or they will be 2.5 games behind the Giants for the last Wildcard spot. Either way, it does not feel like they would have enough time left in the season to make up that kind of ground. This is the type of loss which sobers a team up and gives them the realization that the postseason is not in their future that season.
They will fall to 2-15-1 against the Steelers all time. This would see Pittsburgh essentially match the Colts for most dominant all-time head-to-head record against the Falcons.