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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 16

The Falcons need some help, but they’ve got two manageable games remaining for their playoff push

Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!

With two games remaining in the 2023 season, the Falcons are coming off their best offensive performance of the year and still have a slim chance to reach the postseason. While their play against Indianapolis was inspiring, the Falcons have wasted too many prime opportunities and will now need help from Tampa Bay to win the NFC South.

However, the path to a Wild Card spot isn’t completely closed yet, either, but that will likely require the Falcons to win their final two games and receive some help along the way.

A brief refresher for those who may be reading this piece for the first time: This exercise is meant to provide a quick synopsis of how each team did the previous week. I’ll highlight a standout player from each side of the ball, and for the two teams next on Atlanta’s schedule, I’ll include a potential x-factor player for the upcoming matchup.

Here’s how the Falcons’ remaining opponents looked in Week 16:

Week 17 – at Chicago Bears (6-9)

Last three games:

- Week 14: Win vs Detroit (28-13)

- Week 15: Loss at Cleveland (20-17)

- Week 16: Win vs Arizona (27-16)

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 16:

The Bears continue to boast a strong run game on offense, and on Sunday it was tight end Cole Kmet who was the featured receiver for Justin Fields. Defensively, they have a lot of pieces to like, and they are the league’s top run defense, which they showed once again in their win against Arizona.

Best offensive player in Week 16: RB Khalil Herbert

Herbert had his best game of the season against Arizona, carrying the ball 20 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. After entering the season as the presumed top back for Chicago, this has not been the 2023 many envisioned for Herbert. But after battling through some mid-season injuries, the third-year back looks dangerous once again.

Best defensive player in Week 16: CB Kyler Gordon

The Bears’ slot corner was all over the place against Arizona. Like Atlanta’s box safeties and nickel corners, Gordon does a little bit of everything near the line of scrimmage for Chicago. He had a very nice effort sack after fighting through a double team, and he also broke up a pass while allowing just 35 yards in his coverage. It was an impressive showing for the second-year defender.

Team stat to know: The Bears have the third-fewest sacks in the league this season (27).

X-factor for the Bears in Week 17: LB T.J. Edwards

The Bears have so many x-factor-type players on their roster, which makes them a hard team to predict. One player who shows up each and every week, though, is Edwards. The former Eagles star leads the team with 141 tackles, which ranks seventh among all NFL defenders. He could be especially impactful on the Falcons’ outside zone and stretch runs because of his ability to knife into the backfield and his nose for the football. If one player can stymie Atlanta’s emerging run game, it’s Edwards.

Week 18 – New Orleans Saints (7-8)

Last three games:

- Week 14: Win vs Carolina (28-6)

- Week 15: Win vs New York Giants (24-6)

- Week 16: Loss at Los Angeles Rams (30-22)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 16:

The Saints gained just 35 rushing yards in their Thursday night matchup against the Rams, giving their fans plenty of chances to boo Derek Carr from home. After falling behind 17-7 in the first half, New Orleans spent plenty of time playing catch-up, something they’ve done a lot this season.

Best offensive player in Week 16: WR Chris Olave

For as much as Saints fans seem to hate Carr, he’s been playing well down the stretch. More often than not it’s Olave he’s targeting, and the results can’t be disputed. On Thursday, Olave caught nine of the 13 passes thrown his way for 123 yards. The second-year receiver ranks 14th in the league with 1,041 yards, but he’s only caught four touchdowns.

Best defensive player in Week 16: S Tyrann Mathieu

Mathieu is well known amongst Falcons fans, and he had an excellent game against Atlanta earlier this season. He continued his high level of play this year against the Rams, earning nine tackles, including a team-high four stops, and a pass breakup.

Team stat to know: New Orleans allows 19.8 points per game, which ranks ninth among NFL defenses.

X-factor for the Saints in Week 17: QB Derek Carr

Carr’s ineffectiveness in Atlanta’s territory played a large role in the Falcons emerging victorious in Week 12. But the four-time Pro Bowler has been on a tear since then. He’s completed over 73 percent of his passes for 882 yards with nine touchdowns and only three interceptions over the last four games. New Orleans’ offense has been a bit more one-dimensional this season, so Carr is running the show.