The Falcons have been on the wrong end of many heartbreaking games. Atlanta kicked off the season with a brutal blown loss to the rival Saints, 27-26 at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Falcons had every opportunity to win that football game, blowing a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter after Marcus Mariota had what ended up being a back-breaking fumble inside the 5-yard line. But somehow, against the Panthers on Sunday, the shorthanded Falcons ended up victorious when they probably shouldn’t have and currently sit in first place in their divsion.
There were ten lead changes and six scores in the final quarter and overtime in the Falcons 37-34 win over the Panthers, which puts the Dirty Birds at .500 and in sole possession of first place of the NFC South. With 36 seconds left, PJ Walker hit DJ Moore with a 62-yard Hail Mary for a game-winning touchdown with just 12 seconds left. However, Moore removed his helmet in celebration, which brought on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, leading to Eddy Pineiro missing the 47-yard extra point, sparking overtime.
In overtime, the Falcons won the toss and elected to receive. But it looked to be all lost once Marcus Mariota threw an interception that CJ Hendersen returned to Atlanta’s 26-yard line. Carolina would later get the ball to the 14, giving Pineiro the opportunity to win the game with a 32-yard field goal. Arthur Smith iced the kicker, and Pineiro missed once again. The Falcons then drove down the field to set up a 41-yard Younghoe Koo field goal to win the game.
It was a wild ending, and for many Falcons fans, all they knew was pain and disappointment in these scenarios. It wasn’t a pretty win, but you’d rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss. Despite not having been over .500, Atlanta sits in first place of the division with a real chance to host a playoff game. The last time Atlanta had a record over .500 was 2017, and 2016 was the last time the Falcons were in first place in the division at this point in the season. Unironically, that was the last time the team hosted a playoff game too.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Falcons currently have a 45% chance of making the playoffs and a 38% chance of winning the division, compared to the Buccaneers’ 45% and 39% respective chances. Prior to the Week 8 win over Carolina, Atlanta had a 39% chance of making the postseason and a 33% chance of winning the division.
Current NFC playoff picture
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-0)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
- New York Giants (6-2)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
There’s a genuine possibility the Falcons will make the postseason, which will mark the first time the team has played meaningful games in January since 2017. If they win the division, they’ll host a playoff game for the first time since 2016. That would be quite an accomplishment for a rebuilding team with one of the least talented rosters in the league.