The Falcons find themselves in some very familiar territory going into this weekend’s clash in Tampa Bay — for the third consecutive year they sit at 3-3 as of the conclusion of six games. In each of the past two seasons, they would go on to lose game seven, win game eight and then string together losses before never seeing .500 again.
In each of those seasons, the Birds went on to finish at 7-10. Doing so this year feels like it would be a lot more unacceptable given that it’s now year three of the Terry Fontenot-Arthur Smith regime and that there was significant offseason investment which was not really possible in 2021 and 2022.
This weekend, the Falcons face the suddenly resurgent defending division champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were left for dead by many this past offseason, following Tom Brady’s retirement and some decimation along the offensive line. Tampa currently has the only winning record in the division at 3-2.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Buccaneers in Week 7, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will have that “game seven breakthrough” that has eluded them in each of the past two seasons. This team is dangerously close to getting into “here we go again” territory, at the very least among the fanbase, and pulling yourself back above .500 with a big divisional road victory will go a long way in showing that this year just might be different.
Despite the frustrations up to this point in the season, a win would see the Falcons sit alone atop the NFC South, moving them 0.5 games ahead of Tampa and a full game ahead of New Orleans, who already lost this week on Thursday Night Football. The Birds would also move their division record to 2-0, which could be a very valuable tiebreaker down the road.
The Falcons would secure their first road win in over a full calendar year — the last time they experienced success away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium was in Seattle last season back in Week 3.
Desmond Ridder would also win his first ever road game as a starting NFL quarterback and Arthur Smith would secure just his second ever road win against a division opponent as head coach. The Falcons would also tie the all time head to head series against the Bucs at 30-30.
If the Falcons lose
It’ll be even more deja vu as they will move to 3-4 and be in a situation where they and the Saints, mired in mediocrity, look to chase down the Bucs, who are also mediocre but slightly less so. They would also complete a string of four defeats in five games, which will really take the luster fully off of the great 2-0 start to the season.
While Atlanta would remain in second place in the division over New Orleans due to the conference record tiebreaker, they would fall to a full 1.5 games behind the Buccaneers, with this being the first time any real separation occurs at the top of the division. Tampa’s division record would also go to 2-0 and they would guarantee that Atlanta will not be able to sweep them for a sixth consecutive year.
The Falcons would continue their road woes with a ninth straight defeat away from the Benz, and will be staring down the barrel of another two road games in the next three weeks ahead of the bye.
Currently tied for the last wildcard spot, which acts as a parachute in case they don’t win the division, Atlanta would fall out of a tie and to a full game back if the Rams or Commanders win this weekend, and would be 0.5 games behind the Packers if they win.