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What if the Falcons win/lose against the Carolina Panthers (Part 1)

Will this team finally achieve a record above .500?

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Aaaaand we’re back. Following an offseason spending spree in free agency, as well as the subsequent draft selection of the most exciting running back to come out of college in at least five years, the anticipation for the Falcons’ 2023 season has reached boiling point levels.

The fanbase is enthralled, the players seem to have had a different sort of buzz in training camp this year, and even head coach Arthur Smith has looked more loose than ever. This could be a really fun fall/winter in Atlanta, and it all starts with a home matchup against the division rival Carolina Panthers this weekend. I personally don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that this is maybe the most important season opener for the Falcons in many years.

This is now the fifth year in which I will be doing this article series and the concept is really quite simple — we will look to answer the basic question of what the scenario will be if the Falcons win the upcoming game and what it will be if they lose.

What this article ultimately ends up becoming is always up to the team. In every single season I have written it so far, it’s become a series looking at draft scenarios, since Atlanta has always fallen out of contention in the latter stages of the season. The hope is that the team will finally break through this year and turn this into an exercise looking at playoff scenarios instead.

Let’s kick off this year’s rendition of the series by looking at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, and also looking at the fallout from a scenario in which they lose.

If the Falcons win

They will finally end the nearly six-year long odyssey to achieve a record above .500 at literally any point in the regular season. It’s a stat that almost doesn’t feel real, but it unfortunately very much is. After knocking off the Cam Newton-led Panthers on December 31, 2017, the Atlanta Falcons moved to 10-6 in the 2017 season — that was the very last time we’ve seen them have a winning record.

Since then, we have had five completed NFL seasons, and with each passing year we have seen the Birds lose the season opener and never bounce back to a point where they have had more wins than losses. This feels like a psychological barrier at this point, and a victory will help this franchise clear it and remove an albatross off of its neck. A victory would also mark their first win to go to 1-0 since 2017, when they did it against the Chicago Bears.

The Falcons will win their third game in the last four tries against the Panthers. Last year, these teams played two very memorable games in a season split.

Desmond Ridder will win his third consecutive game as Falcons quarterback and personally remain undefeated in football games played at home going back throughout his entire collegiate career — his record at home in the NFL will move to 3-0, to go along with his 26-0 home record as the signal caller for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

If the Falcons lose

While it will just be one week out of 18 in the regular season, it will almost hurt even more than some of the season opening losses of the past few years. The Falcons go into this game as favorites, are playing against a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut, and have the support of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd behind them.

Walking out at 0-1 may have the fanbase justifiably thinking “here we go again” after years of disappointment, following the Super Bowl run. All the hype and great expectations will feel a bit meaningless if the team comes out and lays an egg against a very beatable (and already banged up) opponent right from the get go.

Arthur Smith’s record against division rivals since taking over as head coach will fall to 3-10 and he will officially have a losing record against each of the other NFC South teams. His overall record as Falcons head coach will move to 14-21.

Atlanta will remain at home with their next game being against Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers. The pressure will be amplified in that one to not start the year off at 0-2 with tough games on the road coming up against the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars immediately after.