Just four weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons were sitting at the bottom of the league with an 0-5 record and had just fired their head coach and general manager. Fast forward to today, and the same team now has an outside chance of squeaking their way into the postseason. Could it be a case of too little too late, or are we about to witness the greatest turnaround in NFL history?
Most offensive snaps with lead:
8-1 Chiefs (327)
3-6 Falcons (321)
6-2 Ravens (299)
7-2 Bills (295)
6-2 Seahawks (275)
One is not like the others.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) November 10, 2020
The Falcons enter their bye week sitting at 12th in the NFC playoff picture, giving them a less than 1% chance of playing football in January. Despite having a better record — the Football Team, Giants, and Cowboys all have a higher playoff percentage than Atlanta’s. That’s what happens when you play in the NFC Least.
Can the Falcons climb the ladder?
Maybe… and I say that loosely. To date, the toughest stretch of games the Falcons have faced were their first four to open the season — Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, and Green Bay. However, Atlanta’s final seven games will make that four-game stretch look weak. They still have to face New Orleans twice — the number one team in the NFC — and they have to play Tampa Bay twice. On top of that, the Falcons have to go to Kansas City in late December to face off against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Chargers and Raiders aren’t of the same degree of difficulty, but both teams can easily upend the Falcons. The Raiders have already done that to New Orleans.
Starting off 0-5 put the Falcons in a hole that seems insurmountable, and the insufferable loss to Detroit only made it that much more difficult to overcome. The Falcons have posted a 2-6 record against NFC teams thus far. The losses to Seattle and Green Bay don’t hurt as much because both teams are winning their respective divisions and may not be a factor. However, the losses to Detroit and Chicago may be the ones that determine whether or not the Falcons make the postseason.
Who should the Falcons watch in Week 10?
While the Falcons aren’t suiting up in Week 10, there is still plenty to keep an eye on.
Detroit vs. Washington
The Washington Football team is only six points away from being a team with four wins, more than Detroit. The Lions enter this game as 5.5 point favorites. However, don’t be shocked if this ends up closer and could swing in either direction. However, the Football Team will be without starter Kyle Allen and will have Alex Smith make his first start since his gruesome leg injury in 2018.
Must Win: Washington
Chicago vs. Minnesota
The Vikings are coming off back-to-back wins while the once 5-1 Bears have lost three consecutive games. The two rivals will be featured on Monday night, and it will be the first of their two scheduled meetings. With both teams’ recent form going in the opposite directions, the Vikings are the favorites by 2.5 points. This means well for Atlanta because while the Bears have a three-game lead on the Falcons, they still have to face Green Bay twice and Minnesota a second time. This week is an important one because four of the Bears next five games following Week 10 are all against teams with losing records.
Must Win: Minnesota
New Orleans vs. San Francisco
There’s never a good time to cheer for your biggest rival, but here we are. The 4-5 49ers sit three spots higher than the Atlanta Falcons. While last year’s game between the two was the second-best game of the year, just behind the Falcons upsetting the 49ers, this year’s edition won’t be as hot. The 49ers are decimated by injuries and have seen their fair share of COVID related issues. The Saints enter the game as 6.5 point favorites, but I could see them winning by a lot more than that.
Must Win: New Orleans
Los Angeles (N) vs. Seattle
Seattle will look to hold onto their NFC West lead as they take on the 5-3 Rams. The Atlanta Falcons lost in the opening week to the Seahawks, so for the Falcons to have a chance at a playoff appearance, Seattle must take the West. This is the first of their two scheduled meetings, so a win by Seattle could be a big indicator of how the rest of the Rams season plays out. However, due to the Seahawks poor defensive play, Los Angeles is favored in this game by 1.5 points.
Must Win: Seattle
Buffalo vs. Arizona
If you’ve picked up on the trend, the NFC West poses a big problem for the Falcons. The 5-3 Cardinals will be facing off against the Bills, who are coming off their upset win over Seattle. Just like Buffalo, Arizona has also defeated Seattle. If you pair a Rams Week 10 win over Seattle and an Arizona win over Buffalo, the Cardinals will take the divisional lead with all three teams tied at 6-3. Just like how the Rams play Seattle twice, the Cardinals and Rams still have to play their two scheduled matchups. How the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals fare over these next few weeks will paint the playoff picture much clearer. Despite losing to Miami in Week 9, the Cardinals are 1.5-point favorites over the Bills.
Must Win: Buffalo