As we enter the new year, the Atlanta Falcons will likely have the same resolutions for 2023 as they have had each passing year but which have failed to materialize. These include a record above .500, a spot in the playoffs, and a reason for fans to sell out the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s now been five years since the Falcons have achieved any of those objectives, as this playoff drought is reaching sweltering territory.
Last weekend’s loss to the Ravens put the Falcons in very familiar territory — mathematically eliminated from post season contention with two or more games left to play. In reality, sitting at 5-10 now, the Falcons have had no business being in any sort of contention, but the weak division around them gave them that chance. This team has not had a record above .500 at any point since the 2017 campaign, as they resign themselves to “at least there’s next year” dreams, when spring will rebirth a renewed sense of hope and optimism as it always does.
Their opponent this weekend is dealing with the disappointment of reality themselves. The Arizona Cardinals sit at 4-11, looking to navigate through the rest of a disaster campaign which has featured a general manager who stepped away, a coach on the hot seat and a franchise quarterback who has been lost for the rest of this season and likely a part of next season. Of course, this team was cooked even before the Kyler Murray injury.
I solemnly promise that you won’t see any playoff talk or scenarios in this article. It’s draft season. Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Cardinals in Week 17, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will break their four-game losing streak and will see Desmond Ridder get his first professional victory in his first ever home game, in Atlanta. It will be a very special moment for the rookie out of Cincinnati that we should not take for granted.
More than anything, when you look at it from a practical standpoint, the Falcons will jeopardize their draft positioning. Atlanta currently sits in the sixth slot if the season ended today, but they could fall to ninth this weekend on account of the strength of schedule tiebreaker. This would happen if the Raiders, Panthers and Rams all lost.
Atlanta would move their home record to 5-3 on the season and would ensure their first winning record on their home turf since 2017. This is a dramatic improvement after they went 2-6 at home in each of the past two seasons.
If the Falcons lose
Their losing streak would reach five games, and this would be the fifth time in the last five seasons where they have endured a streak of five or more consecutive defeats. It’s quite the worrying trend for a franchise which has suddenly gotten very good at stacking losses together.
At minimum, they will jump into the top five in terms of draft standings, as they will leapfrog the Cardinals due to the strength of schedule tiebreaker. They will have a chance to jump to as high as third if the Colts and Broncos also win this weekend, but neither will be favorites in their matchups.
The Falcons would be guaranteed a record worse than last year’s 7-10 mark, and will move one big step closer toward finishing last in the NFC South for the fourth time ever, and just the second time since 2007. The last time it happened was in 2020.