Hello, and welcome to the latest must-win game of the season. Only this week, we’re serious.
It’s borderline impossible to imagine the Falcons losing to the New Orleans Saints today and making the playoffs. At 6-6, they’ve buried themselves with too many potential tiebreaker losses — defeats against possible wild card teams Dallas, the New York Giants and Philadelphia — and therefore would be hard-pressed to reach the post-season with a 9-7 record.
First, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Quarterback Matt Ryan (turf toe) and running back Michael Turner (high ankle sprain) both are on the inactive list. (Right guard Harvey Dahl also is inactive with an ankle sprain)
No great surprise. Neither Ryan nor Turner practiced all week. (Walk-throughs don’t count.) I don’t know if the Falcons had classified them as “questionable” in an attempt to confuse the Saints, or if they really believed there was a chance one or both might play. In either case, it never seemed realistic.
As for today, we’ve seen a lot of strange developments in Falcons-Saints games in the past. But a Falcons win today would rank near the top. New Orleans is 12-0. Atlanta has dropped five of seven since a 4-1 start. Offensively, the Falcons are beat up. Defensively, they’re not very good. At least, Washington, which nearly pulled an upset last week, has one of the better ranked defenses in the NFL.
I’m not sure what this will count for when it’s over today, but I’m certain the Falcons will play hard. They know the situation they’re in and they don’t want to be humiliated at home two weeks in a row (losing to Philadelphia, 34-7, in the Georgia Dome last week).
For those who missed it, I talked to tight end Tony Gonzalez the other day and he remains confident about today’s game and the rest of the season. Here’s a link to the column.
Referencing the Eagles, game, tackle Tyson Clabo said, “Obviously, nobody likes to get embarrassed like that. We feel like we have a better team than that. It’s not something you want to happen, ever.”
Especially at home?
When asked about the prospects of a turnaround, Clabo said, “It’s just going to take us playing better, no matter who’s in there. If we get some guys back, that wouldn’t hurt. But we can’t sit here and count on things that may or may not happen. This is the hand we’ve been dealt and we have to deal with it.”
So there you go? How many of you out there believe the Falcons are primed to pull an upset today? Weigh in with your thoughts and I’ll be back shortly.