The Atlanta Falcons are one of the biggest surprises of the NFL this season. Sitting at 4-4 and atop the NFC South, Arthur Smith’s team has absolutely nothing to lose in a year that was supposed to be the first season of the official rebuild. Moving on from Matt Ryan, Atlanta was projected to be one of the worst teams in the league, selecting near the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. They’ve exceeded expectations, and a part of that is because the Falcons have faced some injury-riddled opponents.
It’s not about who you play but when you play them. And that couldn’t ring more true for the Falcons. Injuries have completely hobbled Atlanta’s opponents at times. I don’t want to sound like the Falcons’ haven’t been dealing with injuries because they have. AJ Terrell, Casey Hayward, Kyle Pitts, and Cordarrelle Patterson have missed time. Still, when you look at the injuries from the past weeks, it’s jarring.
Week 1 vs. Saints
Week 2 vs. Rams
Week 3 vs. Seahawks
Week 4 vs. Browns
Deshaun Watson QB (suspended), Taven Bryan DL, Jadeveon Clowney DE, Myles Garrett DE: The most critical position on the field at quarterback, and the two best defenders on the Browns, including one of most feared players in the league in Garrett
Week 5 vs. Buccaneers
Week 6 vs. 49ers
Arik Armstead DT, Nick Bosa DE, Javon Kinlaw DT, Emmanuel Moseley CB, Jimmie Ward CB, Trent Williams OT: Five defensive starters, including the entire defensive line with the team’s best player in Bosa, as well as the best left tackle in the league, Trent Williams. The Atlanta Falcons might not have won this one if the Niners had a few of these guys back.
Week 7 vs. Bengals
Jeffrey Gunter DE, Josh Tupou DT, Logan Wilson LB: Wilson is the only starter, and ironically, this contest was the one the Falcons were most injured, missing Hayward, Terrell, Jaylinn Hawkins, and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Week 8 vs. Panthers
Chuba Hubbard RB, Christian McCaffrey RB (traded), Robby Anderson WR (traded): Now, avoiding players because of trades isn’t normal, but the Falcons missed Christian McCaffrey entirely, having already played the Niners.
Week 9 vs. Chargers
Injuries have decimated the Chargers. At the beginning of October, Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater — both All-Pro players — went down with season-ending injuries. And that’s not it. Starting wideouts Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Joshua Palmer are all questionable, and it looks like the first pair will miss Sunday’s contest. Chris Rumph, Joshua Kelly, Donald Parham Jr., and kicker Dustin Hopkins are also all questionable.
The Atlanta Falcons continue to draw battered and bruised opponents, but that’s the NFL. Attrition will always be the public enemy No. 1 for playoff-hopeful teams. Injuries are inevitable, but sometimes teams are hit harder than others. And the Falcons have been in the right place at the right time to play these shorthanded teams.