Falcons continue teetering on top draft pick and playoff picture fence

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Much like last season, the Falcons are in the playoff picture but also remain in contention for one of the top draft picks. With a win over the Bears in Week 11, Atlanta sits one game under .500 with six left to play. Atlanta could theoretically still make the playoffs, but it’s also entirely plausible they end up with a top 10 pick in the 2023 cycle.

As it stands right now, the Falcons currently hold the No. 15 overall pick, with a 20% chance of making the playoffs. With games left against the Saints, Steelers, and Cardinals, the Falcons could flirt with a .500 finish, which could squeeze them into one of the Wild Cards spots depending on how others do, but they have challenging opponents in the Buccaneers and Ravens standing in their way. More than likely, the Falcons will finish in a similar position as 2021.

In his first season at the helm, Arthur Smith’s Falcons remained competitive and mathematically alive in the playoff hunt until facing the Bills in the middle of December, eventually ending with a 7-10 record and the No. 8 overall pick. It seems the club is heading for a similar trajectory in 2022 with far less talent on the roster.

The Falcons continue to straddle the fence of making the postseason and drafting among the worst teams in the league. That’s an overachievement for the new regime with the Falcons. In the offseason, expectations were low, some going as far as predicting Atlanta would hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Vegas believed the Falcons would win around four games, setting the preseason total at 4.5, but that mark has already been eclipsed with six games remaining.

Amid a costly rebuild, one that’s causing the Falcons tremendous amounts of dead money, remaining competitive despite the apparent lack of talent on the roster is an accomplishment in and of itself. Atlanta is a feisty group that fights despite being outmatched on paper most weeks; it’s a testament to Arthur Smith and the culture the new regime has instilled throughout the organization.

With actual cap dollars to spend this offseason, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have my interest because they’ve shown an ability to remain somewhat relevant despite having to field a roster with one hand tied behind their backs thanks to the former regime’s bloated, overpriced contracts. There’s no telling how the rest of the season will unfold, especially with the recent news of Kyle Pitts‘ torn MCL, but it’ll likely be similar to what we’ve seen now — bouncing back and forth between playoff hopes and a top 10 draft pick.

Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire

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