Falcons’ game against Eagles shaping up as must-win

Matt Ryan met (and lost to) his childhood idol, Donovan McNabb last season in Philadelphia. This time, he'll probably have to beat him for the Falcons to make the playoffs (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Matt Ryan lost to one of his idols, Donovan McNabb, last season in Philadelphia. This time, he'll probably have to beat him for the Falcons to make the playoffs (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Two months ago, there was great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game Dec. 6. Why? Because it would be Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta.

There should still be great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game. Why? Because if the Falcons don’t win that night, they may not make the playoffs.

Do you still believe the Falcons will make the playoffs?

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Having lost four out of their last five games and dropping to 5-5,  the Falcons logically are out of the NFC South race. They probably have to go at least 4-2 (maybe 5-1) in the final six games to win an NFC wild card spot. Strange things happen in the NFL. But the Falcons have made things difficult on themselves because they’ve already lost four NFC games and head-to-head meetings with the New York Giants (6-4) and Dallas Cowboys (7-3, a wild card competitor if they don’t win the NFC East). Losing to the Eagles (6-4) would significantly diminish chances of winning any tiebreaker scenarios.

In short, the Falcons haven’t left themselves any wiggle room. They still have at least three easily winnable games (two vs. Tampa Bay, one vs. Buffalo) and another one against the sliding New York Jets. But winning a playoff spot outright will be difficult.

As a follow up to last week, here’s another breakdown of how things look.

Seven for the wild cards

♦ 1. Philadelphia (6-4, 5-2): That was a big win for the Eagles over Chicago Sunday night because it raised their NFC record to 5-2, best among the wild card candidates. The Eagles have an easy game next week (Washington), then play the Falcons, Giants, 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys. But they’re still missing running back Brian Westbrook, whose status for the rest of the season is uncertain because of two concussions in a span of three weeks.

♦ 2. Green Bay (6-4 overall, 5-3 in NFC): It’s hard to see the Packers missing the playoffs. They have a better overall and conference record than the Falcons and four of the next five games are against the Lions (2-8), Ravens (5-5), Bears (4-5) and Seahawks (3-7).

♦ 3. N.Y. Giants  (6-4, 4-3): They hold two tiebreaker edges over the Falcons (conference, head to head), but the schedule the next three weeks is rugged: at Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.

♦ 4. Falcons (5-5, 4-4): They’re 1-4 since a 4-1 start. That’s the wrong kind of turnaround. In addition to the poor conference record, they’re also only 1-5 on the road, but remaining road games against the N.Y. Jets and Tampa Bay both are winnable.

♦ 5. San Francisco (4-6, 4-3): The 49ers started the season 3-1  but are 1-5 since, and the slide started with a loss to the Falcons. But the next two games are against Jacksonville and Seattle, so they could hang around a while.

♦ 6. Carolina (4-6, 4-4): The Falcons have split two games with the Panthers. Carolina lost to Miami four days after beating the Falcons and could go 2-4 with this remaining schedule: at N.Y. Jets, Tampa Bay, at New England, Minnesota, at N.Y. Giants, New Orleans.

♦ 7. Chicago (4-6, 2-5): The Falcons actually hold two tiebreaker edges (conference, head to head) over the Bears. But at this point Chicago doesn’t look like a competitor, especially with a remaining schedule that includes two games against Minnesota and one against Green Bay.

So there’s this week’s update. How confident are you of the Falcons’ chances? I’ve also put up a poll.

173 comments Add your comment

falcon 71

November 23rd, 2009
7:24 am

if by slim chance they make the playoff they will loose in the 1st round just like last year

Nativebird

November 23rd, 2009
7:27 am

This QB cannot do it all by himself, the Vets on this team other than Tony G., need to STEP UP and make some plays. M. Jenkins is a Joke and have proven he’s not interested in being a big time pro. Time for Weems in the slot.

bali

November 23rd, 2009
7:29 am

till they upgrade the secondary and get their timing down on field goals i would think their is very little chance the falcons are going anywhere but home when the season ends.

Brian in Villa Rica

November 23rd, 2009
7:41 am

It’s a numbers game from here. 10 wins might not get us in with the tie-breaker disadvantage. Falcons will need to run the table to assure themselves of a spot.

Shirly Hemphill

November 23rd, 2009
7:42 am

Jenkins can’t catch, E-lame can’t kick, Abraham is AWOL…don’t even get me started on the secondary!
Playoffs ?…PLAYOFFS???!!!…

I'm with Shirly H...

November 23rd, 2009
7:49 am

…PLAYOFFS? playoffs? playoffs (squeaky voice)? ARE YOU KIDDIN’ME? PLAYOFFS? don’t talk to me about PLAYOFFS! Playoffs?

Jeff Schultz

November 23rd, 2009
7:52 am

Falcons 71 — I’m not sure about that. Two teams (Minnesota,New Orleans) stand above everybody else, but the Falcons wouldn’t have to play either one in a wild card game.

Here's a clue...

November 23rd, 2009
7:52 am

…to the defensive backs – every once in a while you HAVE to turn around and find the ball! Who is coaching those guys – Willie Martinez? OPH yeah, the great Brian Van Gorder whom the Bulldog think is better than Willie! What a freakin’ joke both defenses (Falcons and UGA) are.

What a lost weekend – Falcons lose, Hawks lose, Thrashers lose, and UGA loses twice (FB and BB). Lucky for Tech they had the week off!

Jeff Schultz

November 23rd, 2009
7:54 am

Native Bird — I think losing the downfield speed of Harry Douglas, even as a third receiver, hurt the offense a lot. He would’ve stretched defenses and opened up the middle.

Jeff Schultz

November 23rd, 2009
7:57 am

And I agree with you folks on Jenkins. Huge disappointment. I really thought he had started to turn the corner last season and would be a solid No. 2 this year. Hasn’t been the case. I also think Roddy White has been slowed by a recent knee sprain more than he’ll admit.

Larry

November 23rd, 2009
7:57 am

This team is poorly coached, poorly prepared for nearly every game, and has two many players that are in key roles who they cannot depend on (Jenkins, Elam, Abraham, Norwooed and the entire secondary.

Brain Van Gorder just may be the biggest bust in the NFL as a Defensive Coordinator as never have more our of position players on third and longs and never have I seen more wide open all pro receivers and tight ends roaming the secondary.

8-8 or 9-7 at best, out of the playoffs, and no hope for the immediate future with this DC and group of defensive players who are actually regressing the past two years.

Dude

November 23rd, 2009
7:58 am

It may not be conventional wisdom: however, the Falcons should have gone for 2 after we tied the game with 28 seconds left. That would have put the game in the hands of the players rather than banking on winning the coin toss. Especially considering that we were away from home and did not have the advantage of the crowd in case we lost the toss.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 23rd, 2009
7:59 am

Need to issue amber alert for John Abraham.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 23rd, 2009
8:03 am

The breck girl Chris Houston cannot turn on coverage due to his shiny, silky, full of body dreds…

MiltonDawg

November 23rd, 2009
8:04 am

No chance if we don’t sign another kicker and a “decent” DB. I know we’ve had our injuries back there but our secondary looked absolutely disgusting yesterday. i saw some plays where there wasn’t a DB 10-15 yds from the Giants WRs.

mountain_jim

November 23rd, 2009
8:05 am

Dimitroff’s fault for not getting decent CBs in free agency. May be time for a new defensive backs coach, one who can teach turning and looking for the ball…
I knew if we lost the coin toss we would lose the game. Really sucks after such a great comeback, to know your game depends on the coin toss.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

November 23rd, 2009
8:06 am

Saying this game is a must win is like saying Jon & Kate’s marriage may be in trouble

CHEF MENTUER

November 23rd, 2009
8:09 am

Those db’s are the worst in the NFL. I don’t think any of the corner backs on this team would even make a roster on any other team! We are done. This is Dimitroff’s fault for not addressing in pre season.

The Real Falcon

November 23rd, 2009
8:15 am

The facts are the facts: no secondary play, too many yards and too many points. Winning record yes, playoffs not a chance! Sad to say.

Shirly Hemphill

November 23rd, 2009
8:16 am

Jenkins needs be moved to the secondary…he’s the only Falcon good at knocking down passes.
E-Lame’s next crazy-ass book should be about an NFL team being sabotaged by a Taliban placekicker.
Bring in Gus the Mule!…Fred MacMurray to hold!

Richard Dawson

November 23rd, 2009
8:17 am

Ryan may be back (I’m not convinced he’s all that good), but Elam sure ain’t. It was obvious to me when he yanked that PAT many games ago, and missed an easy FG in the same game, that he needed to go. There’s GOT to be someone out there that can make a 35-yard FG and PATs. But no, we stick with this over-the-hill bum, and guess what, he cost us a game. Nice going, Mike Smith.

Jeff Schultz

November 23rd, 2009
8:28 am

Larry, I’m not sure if you’re just trying to provoke a reaction but where does the “poorly coached, poorly prepared” analysis come from?

Tim

November 23rd, 2009
8:34 am

No defense = no playoffs. It’s that simple. Falcons bet the farm at beginning of year that their offense would overcome the shortcomings on defense. Not so far. If the secondary can’t improve in a hurry, this team will be home for the playoffs. A little pass rush would help too – from the d-line.

Gamer

November 23rd, 2009
8:36 am

With Grimes atheleticism, why not try him at FREE-SAFETY?

Jenkins please make the easy catches.

Why not use Weems more in slot?

Falcons still can go 10-6, maybe enough wins to make postseason.

Next season start getting rid of over hill receivers and get cover corner.

Eric C.

November 23rd, 2009
8:36 am

The defense is so far below average…last year they didn’t give up 30 pts in any regular season games, this year 30+ is becoming the norm it seems.

Kashi

November 23rd, 2009
8:40 am

Send ELAM to doctor, his kick is not extending as it used to be. Either his leg is getting shoter due to AWOL or his hamstring is more serious then he thinks. I agree 100% bring Jenkins for secondary play. This make logical sense with his speed and ability to break pass and might get more INTs. Chris Houston is worst then any high school CB. I was very dissaponted that Smith didn’t bring in Tye Hill to replace Chris Houston in second half. Hello Mike Smith..what happen to your every Monday speech…We need to match up to our opponents? Did you forget a guy name Tye Hill was in bench?

Falconian

November 23rd, 2009
8:42 am

Where is the whole 2009 draft? Perry, William Moore, Sidbury, Middleton…etc? We were told that our defense was the problem last year, and would be addressed, and now this year the problem is once again defense, and every single player we drafted either didn’t make the team or is nursing themselves on the sidelines. Maybe we need to start second guessing whether Dimitroff is who we think he was???

Josh M

November 23rd, 2009
8:43 am

The schedule always set up this way. The hard part of it is effectively over, meaning both tough games remaining (Saints, Eagles) are at the Dome. With Bucs, Bucs, Jets and Bills remaining, we SHOULD only have to win one of the tough ones to get to 10 wins and a playoff spot.

Jeff Schultz

November 23rd, 2009
8:51 am

Shirley Hemphill — Funny line on Jenkins.

Kashi — This is no defense of Chris Houston, but Tye Hill got absolutely torched the week before at Carolina. He’s no prize either.

Falconian — Not you can play Dimitroff (or anybody) for injuries.

PMC

November 23rd, 2009
8:52 am

This one is on Dimitroff this year so far. The talent level is not good enough for them to win with this schedule or survive injuries. There are a lot of factors. Obviously they overachieved last year and we had hoped for more. They are in every game but they just don’t have the talent to win on defense and Jason Elam continues to drag this team down. He should have bought his own ticket to where ever he calls home yesterday.

They knew the defense would struggle anyway because they were relying on rookies. This team was not built to win this year. They were hoping for the offense to be much better, Douglass injury is huge because he is a tremendous playmaker. The OL is still very very porous pass blocking. The talent level of the team equates to mediocrity.

Michael Jenkins continues to struggle mightily.

That said the Falcons still have an outside chance to make the playoffs because there aren’t really very many great teams in the wild card picture. Lots and lots of average teams in the hunt.

The Panthers, Cowboys and Gints losses are killing them…. Jason Elam must be fired immediately. I don’t care if they have to audition high school kickers. Elam is beyond finished. If the long snapper is the problem replace him too!

PMC

November 23rd, 2009
8:53 am

Clearly they were willing to hope for success this year but plan for down the road. I get that. I still have hope for what they are building but this team this year does not have the talent to make the playoffs at this point.

awesome dude

November 23rd, 2009
8:54 am

I hate the NFL’s overtime rules. I mean you have the players busting there butts for 60 min to have the game decided on a coin toss. It’s bogus. they should adopt some form of the college rules or just play a 5 min OT period. sudden death is just stupid.

Nativebird

November 23rd, 2009
8:56 am

Did you folks notice the trash-talk former Falcons tend to do?; But Boley appeared to followed K. Brooking’s lack of class this year by showing on-field childish smack against their former teams.
These guys proved they were NOT leading LB’s in Atlanta, then go to better defenses where they can blend in as fill in LB’s, then show there rears against the team that GAVE them their shot?
Just Goes to show they’re ALL 13 year old teenager ego’s inside at the end of the day.
Brookings autograph and photo have come OFF the mancave wall.

Sports Watcher

November 23rd, 2009
8:57 am

The Falcons versuses Eagles game will put Atlanta back on the radar again….Which Bird team is better????

http://www.mikevick.ning.com

PMC

November 23rd, 2009
8:58 am

Personally I think it’s the embarassing pass rush not the DB’s that are the real issue. Houston has finally started searching for the ball. Grimes can make plays. With the rules on defense so unabashedly infavor of the offense money is better spent trying to find guys who maul QB’s. It would be nice to have better man corners so they could bring more heat exotically especially with Decoup’s ability to desguise his blitzes but the front four (like it generally always is for our falcons) is embarassing.

Until we finally become solid on both lines of scrimmage consistant winning will elude us.

Falconian

November 23rd, 2009
9:01 am

But Jeff, you can wonder why you draft a big defensive lineman #1 that has a history of injuries. Also, is Sidbury and Owens not who they thought they would be? We cannot have another draft in 2010 that ends up having 1 or 2 players contributing.

Brownie

November 23rd, 2009
9:01 am

Looking at this team in the pre-season, I had them at 6-4 right now (Carolina game only real bad surprise), so no need to sharpen the sword and start chopping heads.

Everyone is right on Jenkins…he hasn’t developed into a #2 (although a very good downfield blocker), and Harry Douglas would have been an upgrade. But, it is what it is for this year.

Elam has definitely lost leg strength and confidence, but don’t underestimate the impact of losing your top long-snapper. When Koenen raises his arms to call for the snap, there is a very exact timing of how soon the ball should arrive and be placed…and the snapper is slow to deliver right now. You see the evidence of Elam stutter-stepping a few times. Nevertheless, we’ll see a new PK next year.

Everybody wants to slam Abraham, but he’s been playing hurt all year (normally he would sit out until healthy). I don’t have any issues with the DLine or linebackers.

Now, the DB’s….just not making any plays. I wouldn’t blame Van Gorder though – he’s not coaching the DB’s (that would be Thomas), and I think overall BVG is doing very well with an undermanned squad. Dimitroff’s draft was all about defense, and we’re not seeing productivity from any of them. Vance Walker made a play yesterday, but the rookie DB’s either didn’t make the team or haven’t contributed at all. AND Peria Jerry and William Moore barely found their cleats.

I still think the Falcons can hit 9-7, and considering everything that wouldn’t be bad. Playoffs are definitely a stretch.

Kane337

November 23rd, 2009
9:02 am

You gotta win on the road to be a playoff team. Right now the Falcons are a wretched 1-5 on the road. That’s just not going to get it done. They are going to have to win the rest of the home games and squeeze out a road win to give themselves a chance.

Since the Mike Smith regime started the Falcons are undeafted on the road (excluding playoffs) against Northern opponents (Green Bay, Minnesota) and West opponents (San Fran, Oakland, San Diego). They are winless on the road against Southern teams (all divsional games and Dallas) and East teams (Philly, NYG, NE). I just found that a little odd.

F-105 Thunderchief

November 23rd, 2009
9:04 am

I just want them to break the curse. Four more wins, it’ll take.

Oh, and Michael Jenkins really stinks this season.

Corey

November 23rd, 2009
9:05 am

My my, how quickly we turn on the ones we love.

Reg

November 23rd, 2009
9:09 am

I love the Falcons. However every time I see Chris Houston I think he is channeling a Charles Dimry/Bobby Butler antiback. Can we get someone to at least hit receivers hard after a catch?

Reg

November 23rd, 2009
9:10 am

I’ve seen better coverage in the UFL than the Falcon secondary this year…

Reg

November 23rd, 2009
9:13 am

And lets stop the “winning season” scenarios. Its like saying “you can cut off my hand but don’t amputate my arm”. A winning season is a Super Bowl appearance or win. Period.

RB

November 23rd, 2009
9:15 am

They are who we thought they are!!!!!

SOUTH GA BIRD FAN

November 23rd, 2009
9:15 am

it takes more than two years to build a team the falcons from the past would have laid down and quit by now these birds are fighting and i am proud of them . Lets remember how bad we were expecting to be last year in all honesty last year we expected to lose and didn’t this year expectations were a little high but they battle its easy to stay behind this team , and they will improve. You cant coach injuries and nobody drafts perfect every year. i will take what we have in coaching and the front office its so much better than what we have had in the past.
GO FALCONS !!!!!!!!!

Manny

November 23rd, 2009
9:17 am

I purposely didn’t watch this game. I thought that the Falcons would be overmatched. I turned it on briefly when I saw that the game was tied. Once it went into overtime, though; I turned it off- predicting accurately how it would end.

See, without Michael Turner- and without a strong D-line, I knew that the cause was lost. (See, I knew that the DBs were young; but with a good push, Eli can get jittery.) But I knew that it wouldn’t happen.

Here’s my other problem- if you can’t get a surge on McNabb, this game is over before it starts. McNabb will pick our DBs apart. I just don’t like the matchup.

Here’s the only way that the Falcons can win:

1. We have to be at full strength at running back. That’s #1. That sets our offense up really nice, and we need long, time-consuming drives.
2. Our D-line must play above their heads. In other words, the D-line must have a banner day. They must play on the other side of the line.
3. We must not rely on Matt Ryan so much. He cannot win the game on his own. He doesn’t have that kind of game.
4. We must solve the #10 problem (because he alone can kill us.)

If we can do that, we will win. Barely. But most teams with an above-average QB and a speedster at WR gives us fits.

preston

November 23rd, 2009
9:25 am

I agree that the Falcons must win the Philadelphia game but Jeff, considering that Tampa Bay always plays Atlanta tough, and that they already surprised Green Bay, wouldn’t you agree that the Falcons better not look past Tampa Bay. I know the Tampa stinks this yr, but if we lose to them, then our season is definately over.

Talented 10th

November 23rd, 2009
9:32 am

All I gotta say is: GO SAINTS!

PMC

November 23rd, 2009
9:41 am

Overall, I like that this team is passionate they are in every game and I feel like they play really hard. Eventually when the talent matches the passion. Even if they don’t make the playoffs I’m still happy with the overall direction of the club. It’s not like I’m going to go out and be a fan of someone else anyway. If you’re a fan of the Falcons you have to be happy with baby steps or take joy in whatever you can.

How much does Jenkins

November 23rd, 2009
9:43 am

make in a season? I know we re-upped him last year. What’s the damage on a guy who can’t catch a cold?

And what about the kicking situation? Elam is a lost cause, when does Keonan start get a shot? Stupid kicker…