The Atlanta Falcons will attempt to close out the season with a victory and extend their winning streak to three games, in Tampa against the Buccaneers. Winning that game would hurt the Falcons a lot more than it would help them.
Three weeks ago the Atlanta Falcons had just dropped their fifth game in a row, giving them nine loses on the season. Despite the fact that the ninth loss did not mathematically eliminate the Falcons from playoff contention, it was only a matter of time. The Falcons were eliminated the following week.
Since the loss to the Packers, the Atlanta Falcons have turned things around so to speak, winning two consecutive games against teams starting inexperienced quarterbacks. But at what cost have the victories come?
After week 14 the Atlanta Falcons stood at 4-9. Had the season ended at the point, the Dirty Birds would have picked number six in the NFL Draft. Owner Arthur Blank stated that coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were safe when it comes to returning next season, that very same week.
Had they not won two in a row, the Atlanta Falcons would possibly be in position to pick number one in the draft. Had they picked first, the possibilities would have been endless. They would have bad their choice between the top edge rusher Nick Bosa or the top interior pass rusher Quinnen Williams.
Another advantage of having a high draft pick would have been the potential to trade down. Picking in the top five would have made the Atlanta a prime trade candidate, for teams looking to move up and draft a quarterback. Such a trade can provide a plethora of picks. Championship teams have been built with similar deals.
There is no use crying over spilled milk because those scenarios are now toast. The only way the Dirty Birds will be able to land Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams is to use value assets to trade up. Such a trade could include next season’s first round draft pick and would zap the Falcons of desperately needed depth.
So now the question is how would a win this week effect the Atlanta Falcons? On one hand a win would send Atlanta into the offseason on a high note, with a three game winning streak. It would also mean the Falcons finishing second in the NFC South with a division record of 4-2, having swept the Panthers and Buccaneers.
On the draft pick side of things, the Atlanta Falcons are currently slotted to pick number 10. Should they knock off Tampa, they could pick as low as number 16 depending on tie breakers.
Six slots in the draft could be the difference in landing the impact offensive or defensive lineman that the Falcons covet, or having to go to plan b. In addition to considering giving up additional draft assets to trade up, the Falcons would have to consider reaching for a prospect to play in the trenches.
A third option for the Falcons decision makers to ponder, would be rather to take the best player available at another position of need.
For example the Atlanta cornerbacks have been sub par. Could Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff afford to pass on local talent Deandre Baker if defensive lineman such as Ed Oliver, Derrick Brown, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Zach Allen are all off the board?
Quarterback Justin Herbert deciding to return to Oregon for his senior season is also expected to remove one non quarterback from the mix for Atlanta. The other thing to remember is the drop from ten to 16 could also be a six spot drop in all seven rounds of the draft, depending on the tie breakers.
Besides lowering the Atlanta Falcons Draft position, a win over the Buccaneers would give the Dirty Birds a more difficult schedule.
A third place finish in the NFC South would mean Atlanta’s two non common opponents, would be the Packers and the Washington Redskins. On the other had, a win over Tampa and a second place finish, would place the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings on the Atlanta schedule. Both teams have had the Falcons number recently.
So it really is more of a detriment for Atlanta to win this game than to lose. Now I’m in no way suggesting that NFL players would throw a game. Players play to win and they could care less about a high draft pick that could take their jobs.
Dan Quinn is also going to coach to win from a schematic standpoint as he should. However if he is truly safe from termination, he should treat this game more like a preseason game from a personnel standpoint.
I understand coach Quinn must allow the players playing for incentives the opportunity to earn their bonuses. Outside of that, he should get a longer look at the younger players. This would give him more game film to evaluate on these players in the offseason.
More than just to get a better draft pick, treating this game like a preseason game, would help lessen the chance of a major injury. At this late stage in the season, a major injury such as a ligament tear would most certainly affect that player’s status for next season. That would be catastrophic in a meaningless game.
It was painful to watch Julio Jones labor in with a rib injury after every catch or contact he had against Carolina. I am of the opinion he should not have played through that injury, being that Atlanta was already mathematically eliminated. He certainly should not play against Tampa.
With that being said I don’t believe that the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Dan Quinn will treat this game like a preseason game at all. I believe they will play and coach this game like it’s a meaningful game and the healthy veterans will play the majority of the snaps.
I also believe that the Atlanta Falcons will win the ballgame against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 30 Tampa Bay 20
ATL All Day will have more on the Atlanta Falcons final game of the 2018 season, as well as the offseason going forward. We will also continue to bring you the latest news and analysis on all of your favorite Atlanta area sports teams.
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