Atlanta Falcons: Next two games are critical for playoff hopes

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Heading into the 2018 regular season, the sky was the limit for this talented Atlanta Falcons team. With Mercedes-Benz Stadium landing Super Bowl 53, it definitely looked like the Dirty Birds had a great opportunity to be the first NFL team to play in the big game – on their home turf. Nevertheless, after three, agonizing weeks of play, the Falcons season is looking more depressing by the minute.

Not only did Atlanta lose a tough match-up to the New Orleans Saints this past weekend in overtime, but it was confirmed on Monday afternoon that free safety, Ricardo Allen, would miss the remainder of the year because of a torn achilles tendon. With key defensive starters Keanu Neal and Deion Jones already set to miss multiple months of the 2018 regular season, the news on Allen was an extremely tough pill to swallow.

Outside of Panthers receiver, DJ Moore, failing to hold on to football in the end-zone of the closing seconds of their Week 2 match-up with Atlanta, one could make an argument that the first three weeks couldn’t have gone worse for the Falcons. Still, with thirteen games left to go, the Dirty Birds aren’t going to throw in the towel. However, these next two weeks versus the Bengals and Steelers will, without a doubt, push the Falcons towards the NFC Playoffs or another promising year lost.

In Week 4, the Falcons will face the Cincinnati Bengals in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, looking to even their record at 2-2. Since 2002, Atlanta has a 3-1 record against the Bengals, but lost their most-recent match-up with Cincinnati back in 2014, 24-10. While the Bengals do have two wins against the Ravens and Colts, they lost to Carolina on the road last weekend by 10 points. Needless to say, if we’re looking for a positive heading into this match-up, their performance versus the Panthers should definitely give us hope.

After facing the Bengals, the Falcons will head north to face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Dirty Birds are a depressing 2-13 with one tie against the black and gold all-time, with their last win coming back in 2006. Even though Pittsburgh hasn’t looked the part of the normal, intimidating Steelers team thus far in 2018, no Falcons fan should feel good about Atlanta’s depleted defense facing the likes of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. As you may imagine, beating the Steelers in Week 5 is going to be quite the tall-task for this Falcons team.

Nonetheless, the grind of the NFL regular season doesn’t care who’s hurt or what your all-time record is against a particular franchise. The teams who survive these adversities and come away with double-digit wins usually find themselves in the NFL Playoff picture. If Atlanta wants to make it their third-straight playoff appearance for the first time in franchise history, they’ll need to come away with one or two wins over these crucial next two weeks.

In all honestly, the Falcons have more than enough games remaining in 2018 to make up ground if they fall to 2-3 after Week 5 vs Pittsburgh, but falling to 1-4 would be a season-ending blow to this Atlanta football team. That would, not only require the Falcons to win 9 of their last 11 games, but it would ultimately mean stealing two road games versus Tampa Bay, Washington, Green Bay, Carolina or New Orleans. It goes without saying, but after three weeks of play, that looks like a tough accomplishment for anyone.

However, if Dan Quinn can get his house in order and win these next two games, the Falcons will be sitting at 3-2 with home games versus the Bucs and Giants, respectively, in the following weeks. At one game above .500, the Dirty Birds would have a ton of momentum going into two-straight match-ups that they will surely be favored in.

At the very worst, the Falcons would be 3-4 heading into their Week 8 bye-week. At the very best, they would be 5-2.

Regardless, these next two weeks are the vitally important for the Falcons 2018 NFC Playoff hopes. As Dan Quinn mentioned, no one has time for excuses right now. It’s time to move on from the team’s devastating injuries and find a way to win.

 

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