The vibes have never been worse in the 2023 season for the suddenly reeling Atlanta Falcons, who have just suffered a defeat against a Minnesota Vikings team whose quarterback had not taken a single snap in practice all week in the lead up.
The Falcons, as a result, sit at 4-5, just like they did at this point in 2022, and also just like they did at this point in 2021. The 10th game in each of the past two seasons featured the Birds absolutely embarrassing themselves on the national stage on Thursday Night Football — a 25-0 shutout against New England in 2021, and a 25-15 defeat in the rain in Carolina in 2022.
This year, they face an Arizona Cardinals team that’s a lot more dangerous than their 1-8 record indicates. Quarterback Kyler Murray is set to make his season debut, and running back James Conner is expected to make his own return from a mid-season knee injury.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Cardinals in Week 10, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
I won’t say they’d be back on track, but it would be a massive lifeline going into the bye week for a team that really seems to need it at the moment. The record in a vacuum isn’t terrible, but when you consider that Atlanta is playing the league’s weakest schedule as well as the massive investment made in the offseason, then being in the exact same spot as they were each of the past two years suddenly becomes much less acceptable.
Despite the recent struggles, the rest of the NFC South is leaving the door very open. So open, in fact, that Atlanta would actually go into the bye week in first place in the division if the Saints lose to Minnesota this weekend. Even a New Orleans win would have the Birds in position to leapfrog their division rivals if they win the head-to-head matchup coming out of the bye, due to the tiebreaker implications.
The algorithm used by the folks over at playoffstatus.com currently gives Atlanta a 45% chance of making the playoffs. That number will increase to 51% with a win, independent of other scores, with the best case scenario (a Saints loss and a Bucs loss) being them finishing the weekend with a 53% chance at the post-season. A win keeps those hopes alive.
If the Falcons lose
We would have two full weeks to sit on what will be a three-game losing streak and a third consecutive season of sitting at 4-6. Plenty of people are already questioning Arthur Smith’s project, which should be culminating into some sort of success in year 3. Falling to 4-6 against such a light schedule will do nothing but add credence to those criticisms.
The Saints will be able to open up a 2.0 game gap over Atlanta in the division if they win in Minnesota, and will put themselves in position to really start running away from the Birds if they win the matchup coming out of the bye. Tampa Bay would also leapfrog Atlanta for second place if they beat Tennessee.
Playoffstatus.com would have the Falcons’ playoff chances falling to just 35%, independent of other scores, and down to 32% as a worst case scenario (a Saints win and a Bucs win).
The fanbase would be in absolute disarray going into the bye week, and the Falcons would be back to tracking for a fourth consecutive top ten draft pick. Many are already calling for Arthur Smith’s job, and those calls will do nothing but get louder if Atlanta loses this week.