It’s been called the “pre-playoff round robin”. These final four games with the majority of them matching division foes. And for the Atlanta Falcons, it’s desperation time.
As they close out a three-game homestand against the Saints, they are in the outside of the playoffs looking in. All four of their remaining games are against the NFC South giving them the NFL’s toughest remaining schedule, thanks in large part to half of those games being against the 9-3 division-leading Saints.
The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium hasn’t provided them with the home field advantage the defending NFC Champion anticipated. They are just 3-3 there with last week’s loss to the Vikings particularly alarming.
In a 14 to 9 throttling, the Falcons were historically inept offensively. Quarterback Matt Ryan failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his last 30 regular season games. His 173 yards passing were his lowest since the second time in his last three games he’s been held under 200 yards.
After 253 yards in receptions the week before against Tampa Bay, Julio Jones was nearly invisible with two catches for 24 yards.
A Falcons offense that led the NFL in converting 48 percent of its third downs was anemic one for ten, 10 percent. Meanwhile, the Vikings were converting 50 percent of their third downs to enjoy a 10-minute time-of-possession advantage.
The Falcons won’t be out of the playoff picture with a loss but it’s hard to foresee them invited to the post-season party with a pre-playoff, round-robin opening defeat.