The Atlanta Falcons (8-5) did two things last Thursday night of note. In beating the New Orleans Saints at home, they moved back into playoff position.
It didn’t look good there, for a while. Going into the 4th Quarter down a Touchdown, the Atlanta Falcons did something that has eluded them and haunted them for months now: They won the 4th Quarter. In defeating the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints, Atlanta pulled to within one game of the division lead, and also moved into a Wild Card spot.
The phrase “must win game” wasn’t mathematically true of last Thursday’s match-up, that we know of, but it sure felt that way going into it. Reality is that Atlanta never makes the payoffs when they get swept by the Saints. That can’t happen, if they win their home tilt. They just did that.
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“Bad” Matt Ryan showed up, and proceeded to throw three -COUNT THEM 3- INTs and it looked like the team was done. The Defense, however, played like they have started to gel, and looked much more similar to last year’s version than they have all year.
Needless to say, If Ryan continues to play like that, Atlanta probably won’t beat lowly and struggling Tampa Bay this weekend. His continued problems with throwing into coverage, and WRs dropping passes, that seem forced, but are technically there, will end this team’s season, eventually.
But not that night. With a 20-17 victory, Atlanta still could win the entire NFC South Division. In fact, if the Falcons make the Playoffs, it will be the first time in Franchise history of making the Playoffs in subsequent years. It would also buck history of Super Bowl losers returning to playoff action the following year.
After Tampa, Atlanta gets the Saints at their joint and Carolina at home in the season finale. Win all three, they can probably write a ticket for the Playoffs, whether they win the Division, or not.
Go 2 and 1 in those games, and they leave it to fate, and about 4 other teams.
They’ll need Ryan to play better to win 3. They’ll probably need him to play better to win 2.