Mike Smith, who coaches the Falcons, says he’s playing to win Game 16, even though Game 16 means absolutely nothing. The Falcons know when (two weeks hence) and where (here) they’ll be playing next, and they know they don’t have to leave town to qualify for the Super Bowl.
As much as you can say that winning sets a tone, I’d suggest that tone has been sounded in Games 1-15. And there’s no compelling history on whether winning a Game 16 that doesn’t matter makes one smidgen of difference come the playoffs.
In 2007 the Patriots won their final regular-season game to get to 16-0 … but a month later they lost the Super Bowl to the team they’d beaten in Game 16. Last year the Packers won Game 16 behind their backup quarterback Matt Flynn to get to 15-1 … and lost their first postseason game.
If the Falcons beat the Buccaneers 45-24 today — that was the score in Game 16 last season, whereupon the Falcons went to the Meadowlands for the playoffs and lost 24-2 — it will make no different when next the Birds play. That game will matter. This one doesn’t. Me, I’d probably play the starters a half and let the JV’s finish, but that’s just me. And Mike Smith hasn’t dropped a hint as to his plans.
Whatever happens, I’ll be here to observe and report, and I’d appreciate your company. And let me wish one and all a belated Merry Christmas and a heartfelt Happy New Year.
By Mark Bradley