After week 9, the Atlanta Falcons’ record sits at a porous 3-6. The Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, and Chicago Bears are also 3-6, in the NFC. However, unlike those teams, the Atlanta Falcons are in a very good position to not only make the playoffs, but to also host a Wildcard game. The reason for this is, of course, the weakness of the NFC South: the first division since re-alignment in 2002 to not have a single team at the 5 win mark through week 10.
The New Orleans Saints just suffered a defeat to the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and they currently sit atop the division with a 4-5 record. The Falcons’ struggles on the road have been well documented, they just won their first road game of the season against the Buccaneers, but the Saints have struggled just as much away from their own dome. They’ve won once on the road this season, against a very shaky Carolina Panthers team. They still have three games left to play on the road until the end of the season, along with four home games.
More from Atlanta Falcons News
- Atlanta Falcons are the perfect fit for Leonard Floyd
- 3 Largest Atlanta Falcons 2023 dead cap hits
- Atlanta Falcons trade up for a quarterback in this full mock draft
- Atlanta Falcons: 3 trade packages to land first-overall pick
- 3 Reasons the Atlanta Falcons shouldn’t fear Derek Carr and the Saints
The rest of the schedule for the Saints consists of difficult home contests against the Bengals, Ravens, Panthers, and of course the Atlanta Falcons. They get the aforementioned Bears, and one loss Buccaneers, and the Steelers on the rode. The game against the Steelers will be in the cold temperatures of Pittsburgh, the cold isn’t a friendly element to a southern team that plays in a dome, meaning the game will be even tougher against a good Steelers team. The road games against the struggling Bucs and Bears will be anything but a sure victory, as New Orleans is a different team away from the Superdome. The Bears have actually been a better team away from Chicago, and the Bucs almost beat the Saints in New Orleans earlier this season, taking the hosts to overtime. None of their games in New Orleans are going to be easy either: as they face two division rivals, and two AFC North teams who are both above .500 (that entire division is above .500).
The other team ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South is the Carolina Panthers, currently sitting on a 3-6-1 record, coming off of a Monday night beatdown at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. Atlanta will travel to Carolina this weekend for a huge matchup, where the winner will take the division lead if the Saints lose to the Bengals. Momentum is a fragile thing, one game can change the entire mindset of a team. The Falcons gained some much needed momentum with a win against the Buccaneers and are going into Charlotte this weekend with their heads held high. The Panthers, in contrast, just got destroyed in primetime and have lost four straight games. This upcoming game will be a golden opportunity for the Falcons to beat another struggling division rival on the road, and to possibly even take over the top spot in the NFC South.
At this time last year the Atlanta Falcons possessed a record (2-7) that wasn’t far off from where they are now, and they were the first team in the NFL to be mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture. This year, thanks to division struggles, not only are the Falcons not getting eliminated anytime soon, but they’re also just 1 game back of hosting a playoff game. Let me repeat myself, at 3-6 the Falcons are just 1 game back of hosting a playoff game. Let’s not forget, we had this same scenario in 2010, when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, and proceeded to go beastmode against the Saints (11-5) in the wildcard round, played in Seattle. 7-9 will probably be enough to win the South this year. It’s better to be a 7-9 division winner than an 11-5 wildcard team, as the team that topped its division will of course host said 11 win team in the first round.
One thing Atlanta does have going for it is the divisional record: having already beaten the first placed Saints once and Bucs twice, the Falcons are 3-0 in the division, with a great chance to go 4-0 this weekend with a win against the aforementioned Panthers. An end of the season tiebreaker for the division win could easily go in Atlanta’s favor due to this dominance against NFC South rivals. If the Panthers don’t get it together soon, they could easily join Tampa Bay in getting swept under the rug, which would effectively make the south a 2 horse race between the Falcons and Saints: a loss at home to Atlanta will bring this scenario one step closer to coming to fruition for Carolina. Circle week 16 in your calenders Falcons fans, because that’s when Atlanta travels to New Orleans for a potential division deciding duel against the Saints, and don’t be surprised at all if that game is flexed to primetime. The division title is there for the taking, now it’s up to the Falcons to seize the initiative before any of the other NFC South teams can stumble their way to the top.
These are must wins for the Atlanta Falcons from here on out. The competition isn’t fierce, but it will be a dogfight all throughout the year.