(UPDATE: Detroit’s 45-41 loss to Green Bay means if the Falcons defeat Tampa Bay, they will be the NFC’s No. 5 seed and will face the winner of tonight’s New York-Dallas game next week in the playoffs.)
In the interest of full disclosure, here goes: I hardly thought about the Falcons all week.
I don’t know if it was the holidays, or the hangover from last week’s annihilation in New Orleans, or just the thought that today’s game against Tampa Bay might be rendered meaningless. But I’m thinking that when it’s the final regular season game for a playoff team and they’ve slipped off the radar, that’s a problem.
First, let’s break down exactly what this game means: Possibly nothing. The Green Bay Packers are resting their starters today against Detroit (as I type this the Lions lead 19-17). If the Lions win, they’ll clinch the No. 5 seed, will play the winner of the NFC East (Dallas or New York) in the first round of the playoffs and the Falcons would be locked into the sixth seed (playing at the No. 3 seed, either New Orleans or San Francisco). If Green Bay wins, the Falcons can win the No. 5 seed with a win over the Buccaneers, then must await the winner of tonight’s Cowboys-Giants game to see who wins the East.
If the Lions win and the Tampa Bay game is rendered meaningless, I would expect the Falcons to treat today as an exhibition and rest most of their starters (or at least play them very little). Anyway, I’ll update this when we know more.
For now, here are a few items of interest:
• Tight end Tony Gonzalez is not retiring after this season. We know this for certain because the Falcons announced a little while ago that they have signed him to a one year extension, via D. Orlando Ledbetter. Gonzalez was just voted to his 12th Pro Bowl, has 79 receptions, seven touchdowns and actually has a slim chance to hit 1,000 yards for only the fourth time in his career with a monster game (he needs 133 yards).
• Running back Michael Turner has been struggling with a groin injury and the numbers reflect it. In the five games since rushing for 100 yards against Tennessee on Nov. 20, Turner has carried 84 times for only 280 yards (averages of 3.3 per carry and 56 per game). He looks worn down. But in his defense, the Falcons’ offensive line has had issues most of the season.
• The Falcons’ 45-16 loss at New Orleans last week was 10 ways of ugly and the most lopsided defeat of coach Mike Smith’s tenure. Regardless of whether the Saints are really that good or the Falcons are really that bad, it wasn’t a good sign for a team coming off a 10-day layoff. The Falcons have had consistency problems all season and they’ve struggled against good teams. So how they respond to that today will be interesting.
• I wrote a blog the other day, asking what you believed would qualify as a successful season for the Falcons. The answers were all over the board and the poll (still open) was pretty close. After over 1,500 votes, 33 percent voted one playoff win, 29 percent said winning the Super Bowl, 27 percent said two playoff wins. Click the above link to vote and see the results.
That’s it for now. I’ll update this when we get a final from Green Bay. Until then, you’re welcome to vent on what you think of this Falcons’ team right now.
By Jeff Schultz