No one would have ever guessed that a Week 17 matchup between the 6-9 Atlanta Falcons and 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers would have so much at stake.
The winner takes the NFC South and locks up the final playoff spot in the conference.
It’s strange to say, but the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons are leading the NFC South.
With a 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers coupled with a New Orleans Saints 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons are sitting atop the division.
It seems absurd for the 3-6 Atlanta Falcons and 3-6-1 Carolina Panthers to be in the thick of race for the NFC South, but that’s the case as the New Orleans Saints lead the division with a 4-6 record. And if the Saints lose to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, it will be either the Falcons or the Panthers atop the division.
We’re only entering Week 6 of the 2014 NFL season and while there is plenty of football left to be played, there are glaring issues with the Atlanta Falcons that prompt questions as to whether or not this team will advance to the postseason.
Sunday’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers features two teams at the bottom of the barrel of the NFC South.
The Falcons (2-7) have lost three games in a row, with their last win coming against the Bucs in the Georgia Dome.
One of the Atlanta Falcons’ division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis on Sunday.
And although Revis is easily the best cornerback in the league, his arrival to the NFC South means nothing for the Falcons.
First things first: Revis, who will be 28 years old at the start of the upcoming season, is coming off an ACL injury he suffered at the beginning of last season. There’s a chance he doesn’t return the form.
Secondly, Revis is just one man. Last season, the Bucs’ secondary was atrocious; they ranked dead-last in the league, surrendering 297.4 yards per game. While adding Revis will certainly bolster their pass defense, it’s not going to suddenly make the secondary formidable.
One player doesn’t suddenly make the Bucs contenders for the NFC South. The other three teams in the division each have something the Bucs lack: a franchise quarterback. Josh Freeman isn’t there yet as a franchise quarterback, and even his head coach shares the same sentiment.
Let’s assume Revis does return to form. He’ll take out whichever receiver he’s on, but that just means whoever isn’t being blanketed will be able to feast on Eric Wright, the Bucs’ other cornerback. Let’s not forget Atlanta has weapons across the board: Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Julio Jones, and Roddy White. Again: Revis can’t cover everyone.
The only division rival the Falcons will be competing with for the division title is the New Orleans Saints, and the Bucs’ addition of an All-Pro cornerback does nothing to change that.