A few weeks ago, in this section of the article series I talked about how fickle the NFL season can be, where the feelings toward it can greatly fluctuate on a week by week basis. There’s been no better case study in proving this theory correct than the 2023 Atlanta Falcons.
Look back throughout the entire season and you’ll notice that the feelings during this year have been either an immense high or a cataclysmic low with seemingly no in between. A 2-0 start followed by two ugly losses. Then a great win against the Texans in Week 5 followed by a maddening and mistake filled loss against the Commanders. Then, the team’s most complete game and victory in Tampa followed by a three game losing streak against sub-.500 teams.
The putrid NFC South has allowed for a quick bounce back coming out of the bye week and another upswing in the roller coaster this week with a massive victory against the New Orleans Saints, which now puts the Falcons in first place.
Next, they go on the road and hope not to have their feelings sink once again in a game against a New York Jets team which seems to have some serious problems at the quarterback position. It feels like a golden opportunity to start building something.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Jets in Week 13, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will successfully string together back-to-back wins for the first time since opening the season up at 2-0, and not a moment too soon with how bleak things looked heading into the bye week.
The Birds are in first place in the NFC South by way of their 3-0 division record and head to head victory against the Saints and they would be guaranteed to remain in first for those reasons no matter what New Orleans does this weekend. If their rivals lose to the Lions, Atlanta would open up at least a full game lead in the division while owning tiebreakers against both the Saints and Buccaneers (who play the Panthers).
This would be the latest in the season where the Falcons will have a record of .500 or better since 2017, as they have sat at either 5-7 or worse after 12 games in each of the past five seasons. During the Arthur Smith era, this is the point where the team has generally started to fall off. Winning this game would signify a welcomed change.
The victory last weekend against New Orleans combined with the other NFL score lines shot Atlanta’s playoff odds up from 31% to 49%, according to playoffstatus.com. Another victory this week would continue that ascension up to 60%, independent of other score lines (this number could and likely will be different depending on what else happens across the league).
Victory would also set up the Falcons to deliver a potential knockout blow to the Bucs’ hopes of repeating as division champions with another head-to-head game against Tampa next week.
If the Falcons lose
The fanbase will suffer another dip in this roller coaster, and the team would find itself with the exact same 5-7 record they had at this point in the season in both 2021 and 2022. They will do so by becoming the first team opposing quarterback Tim Boyle has ever defeated in his career as an NFL starter (0-4 record up to this point).
The door will be opened for the Saints to re-take first place in the division, albeit with a difficult test coming in the form of a very good Lions team, and the Bucs will be able to re-tie Atlanta for second place with their own victory. A Saints defeat, however, would keep the Birds in first with that 5-7 record due to the aforementioned tiebreakers.
The Jets would defeat the Falcons head to head for just the second time since 1998, with Atlanta having won four of the last five meetings. The lone defeat came on Monday Night Football in 2013.
The playoff odds (playoffstatus.com) would dip from 49% to 42%, independent of other scores, but could fall all the way to 36% in a worst case scenario where the Saints and Buccaneers each win.