The Atlanta Falcons are mathematically still alive with three weeks remaining in the season, but never has there been a more decisive blow dealt to this franchise in 2023 than last Sunday when they went up to Charlotte and suffered defeat against the 1-12 Carolina Panthers.
Sitting at 6-8, the Falcons have taken the early season hope they gave from their initial 2-0 record and pulled the rug out from under us, taunting us in the process and asking how we could be so foolish to not expect anything different.
Now, they welcome in the scorching hot Indianapolis Colts, who did not let the season ending injury to highly touted rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson derail their season. It certainly looked like they might after losing three straight in the immediate aftermath and dropping to 3-5 halfway through the season. Since then, however, they are 5-1 and come to Atlanta smelling blood in the water.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Colts in Week 16, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
They will remain alive in the hunt for the division title (don’t yell at me for talking about this, I’m just covering all bases with this scenario). A Buccaneers loss to Jacksonville will actually set up yet another three-way tie atop the NFC South between the Bucs, Saints, and Falcons, with New Orleans already having lost on Thursday night against the Rams.
We’re looking forward to next week here, but in such a scenario if the Saints were to defeat Tampa and Atlanta were to also beat the Bears, that would set up the Week 18 showdown in New Orleans between the Falcons and Saints for the division title.
If Tampa Bay were to beat Jacksonville, however, Atlanta would be in dire straits even with a victory as Tampa would be just one win against Carolina in Week 18 away from clinching the division. No serious team loses to Carolina at this point in the season. The Falcons would have to hope to break through in the Wildcard race and that seems unlikely unless they go undefeated the rest of the way.
The Falcons are currently slated to pick 10th in the NFL Draft as of this moment. Victory could drop them to 12th as the floor at the end of this weekend.
If the Falcons lose
The free fall would continue and the discouraging results of the Arthur Smith era would as well, as this would officially be his third consecutive losing season, and it would be Atlanta’s sixth consecutive losing season overall.
A Buccaneers victory against Jacksonville would not yet eliminate them mathematically from division contention, but it would put those hopes on complete life support. If the plug doesn’t get pulled next week, then it likely would in Week 18 during that Bucs-Panthers game.
The franchise would be in the midst of a late season collapse which will hopefully be enough to have ownership reevaluate this coaching staff, which has done very few positive things in three full seasons despite being given every resource to be successful in 2023. No, I’m not accepting the bad quarterback argument as Arthur Smith appears to have hand-selected Desmond Ridder as his guy at QB.
If every single team one game worse than them manages to win this weekend — the Titans, Chargers, Jets, Giants and Bears — then the Falcons would climb all the way up to 5th in the draft order rankings (very unlikely, I know, but this is a technically possible scenario).
The Falcons will fall to 2-16 all time against the Colts head to head. Their last victory came against Curtis Painter in 2011.