The Atlanta Falcons were one of the dominant teams in the NFL last season, finishing the regular season at 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Falcons then finally won their first playoff game in the Mike Smith and Matt Ryan era before losing in the NFC Championship. The return of Tony Gonzalez and the addition of Steven Jackson had hopes in Atlanta sky high heading into this season, and many thought this team was a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, this season has been a disaster. The Falcons are 2-5, four games back of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and three games back of the final Wild Card spot. Sunday saw them turn in their worst performance of the season, a 27-13 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in which Matt Ryan threw four interceptions.
After that performance, it is safe to say that the Falcons’ 2013 season is officially a lost cause. The injuries to Julio Jones and Roddy White have crippled what was an elite passing attack last season, and Ryan is understandably unable to repeat last year’s success without his two star receivers. Jackson has missed four games, and he has just 25 carries for 83 yards in the three contests he has appeared in. The Falcons rank dead last in the NFL in rushing, at an anemic 62.4 yards per game.
Things have been just as bad defensively. The Falcons rank 21st in both total defense and scoring defense, and they have failed to hold an opponent to less than 23 points. The Falcons have a -5 turnover differential, and they are 22nd in the league in sacks recorded. It was essential for the defense to step up following all the injuries to the offense, but that simply hasn’t happened.
At this stage in the season, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which the Falcons can recover and make a run at the playoffs. Six of their final nine games come against opponents with winning records, and each of those teams are contenders for the playoffs in the NFC. The Falcons will likely need to finish at least 10-6 to make the playoffs, and there is no chance that this team can go 8-1 down the stretch the way they are playing.
The Falcons will face a lot of questions this offseason, with Smith’s future being at the top of the list. The lack of playoff success has been a concern, and the disastrous first half of this season has made more than a few people wonder if change is needed. The Falcons will also need to invest heavily in their defense, and they will need a replacement for the retiring Gonzalez.
The Falcons have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season, and yesterday’s lost simply confirmed what most already believed. There will be no playoffs for the Falcons in 2013, and now they must face questions about their future.