FLOWERY BRANCH–The Falcons’ 31-18 victory at Detroit last night made the results of Sunday’s regular-season finale irrelevant to Atlanta’s playoff seeding but coach Mike Smith said that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t matter.
Atlanta (13-2) wrapped up the NFC’s top seed with the victory over the Lions and will enjoy a bye week and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Smith, asked today if he has a plan on how long he will play his starters Sunday against the Buccaneers, said: “We’re going to play the game to win.”
“That’s how we approach it,” he said. “It’s an important game because it’s division game. All games are important. Does it have no bearing? It really does because we want to win every time we go out there to play.”
Falcons players are off until Wednesday. Smith said he and his staff will be at the team’s facility over the next couple days but won’t stay as late as usual.
This is the second time the Falcons have earned the NFC’s top seed with Smith as coach. They also had the conference’s best record in 2010 only to lose 48-21 to the Packers in their first playoff game.
Smith said that experience prompted him to alter his bye-week plan.
“We’re going to do things differently this time around during the bye week,” Smith said. “We’ll handle it differently in terms our workload and the days that we are going to work during our bye week and what our schedule will be. We are not going to do anything like we did last time.”