By Matthew Asher
With the Falcons finally getting their Bye Week after their 22-21 loss to the Detroit Lions, it’s time to do a little soul searching about the second half of what has been a disastrous season so far for Atlanta. Despite the fact that Atlanta just set a new franchise record for the largest blown lead in team’s history, not to mention that the Dirty Birds have lost five straight games, Atlanta still has a chance to win their division in the lowly NFC South.
First, a little history lesson: Since 1990 when the NFL expanded the Playoffs, no team with a 2-6 record has managed to qualify for the postseason. While that may sound like nothing more than the final nail in Atlanta’s coffin this season, the fact that no team in the NFC South currently has a winning record should give Falcons fans a glimmer of hope. Why? Because both of Atlanta’s victories this season have come against their divisional opponents and the Falcons still have four more divisional games to play this season.
Weak NFC South
Carolina is the sole divisional opponent that Atlanta has yet to play. The Panthers sit “atop” the division with a 3-4-1 record. The Saints, who Atlanta beat in Week 1, are currently in second place in the division with a 3-4 record. Then come the Falcons at 2-6 and trailing them are the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs, who the Falcons destroyed in their Week 3 Thursday night game, with a 1-6 record. The other three teams in the division have struggled against each other as the Saints, Panthers and Bucs are just 2-4 against each other so far this season. Atlanta is a perfect 2-0.
With a week off before their next game, Mike Smith and the rest of the coaching staff need to put in a lot of extra hours trying to figure out how to salvage the season. Smitty doesn’t believe his team’s record is a true indicator of the season so far. “We’re a 2-6 football team, but that’s not a 2-6 locker room,” Smitty said. “We’re just trying to get a streak and get one.”
Their first two games will be away games against the Bucs and Panthers, respectively. With a blowout win over their first opponent earlier this season, the Week 10 game in Tampa should probably signal if the Falcons season can be salvaged, or if it’s time to focus on next year’s campaign. In addition, Atlanta’s final two games of the season will complete their divisional games with the Falcons traveling to NOLA and then finishing up the regular season at home against the Panthers.
Of course, the main issue will be the four non-divisional games Atlanta still has left to play as none of these teams have a losing, or even a .500 record. The four non-divisional opponents remaining, the Steelers, Browns, Cardinals and Packers have a combined 20-10 record. It’s not going to be easy to win the majority of those games, but of course, that’s why the teams play the games.
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.