Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Rest of the Atlanta Falcons Season
The Atlanta Falcons season may feel like it's already over because of the team's 1-4 start, but Atlanta still has 11 more games in this 2013 campaign.
What's the Falcons outlook for the rest of the season? Can things get any worse than the nightmare they experienced during the first five weeks? What has to happen for the Falcons to rebound and get back to the playoffs?
Join us as we discuss a few of the best- and worst-case scenarios that could play out over the rest of the Atlanta Falcons season.
Best-Case Scenario: Steven Jackson Gets Healthy and Plays at a Pro Bowl Level
The Falcons won 13 games the year before Julio Jones arrived in Atlanta behind their power run game and a methodical passing attack.
If Jackson gets healthy and plays at a high level, the Falcons offense should be able to put up enough points and control enough clock to keep Atlanta in all of its remaining games.
Worst-Case Scenario: Falcons Suffer Another Season-Ending Injury to a Key Player
The Falcons have lost projected starting offensive tackle Mike Johnson, starting defensive end Kroy Biermann, starting fullback Bradie Ewing and star receiver Julio Jones to season-ending injuries.
In addition, starters like Steven Jackson, Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent and Roddy White have all missed games or been limited by injuries this season.
The Falcons simply don't have the depth to sustain another season-ending injury to one of their top players. If that happens, Atlanta will be lucky to win five or six games.
Best-Case Scenario: Kevin Cone Emerges as an Offensive Playmaker
In addition to Harry Douglas, Atlanta will need receivers Kevin Cone or Drew Davis to make a contribution, since Julio Jones is on IR and Roddy White is fighting nagging injuries of his own.
Between these two largely special teams players, Cone appears to have the most upside as a wideout, based on what he's shown the last two preseasons.
If the Falcons are going to get hot and make a playoff run, they're going to need a player like Cone to emerge as a legitimate threat in the passing game.
Worst-Case Scenario: Harry Douglas Is a Nonfactor in the Passing Game
Speaking of Douglas, the Falcons will be in big trouble on offense if the metro-Atlanta native can't produce as a featured receiver in this offense.
Many Falcons fans have wanted to see Douglas get more opportunities to show what he can do with the ball in his hands, and now that Douglas has been thrust into the starting lineup, he'll get his shot.
If Douglas doesn't produce in these last eleven games, it may be time for the Falcons to add the wide receiver position to their growing list of offseason needs.
Best-Case Scenario: Opponents Third-Down Conversion Rate Falls Below 38 Percent
The Falcons defense is currently allowing a higher percentage of third-down conversions than any other defense in the league. That has to change if Atlanta is going to turn things around.
If the Falcons can somehow get their opponents' third-down conversion rate below 38 percent (which would put them closer to the middle of the pack statistically), they could be in a much better position to put together a winning streak.
Worst-Case Scenario: Defense Proves That the Jets Game Wasn't a Fluke
Alternatively, if the performance that Atlanta's defense put together against the New York Jets last Monday night foreshadows what we will see from it the rest of the season, the Falcons are doomed.
If they couldn't stop Geno Smith, how are they supposed to survive that gauntlet?
Best-Case Scenario: Offensive Line Develops a Mean Streak
It may be too late for the Falcons to add more talent up front, but it isn't too late for Atlanta's current linemen to adjust their attitudes and get back to being nasty.
A mean streak in the offensive line would go a long way towards solving a lot of Atlanta's red-zone and short-yardage issues.
Worst-Case Scenario: Lamar Holmes, Jeremy Trueblood and Sam Baker Get Worse
Sure, Garrett Reynolds and Peter Konz have been beaten badly at times, but the Falcons' offensive tackles have been the weak links along the offensive line for most of the season.
Sam Baker had a poor showing in Week 1 before going down with an injury, while Lamar Holmes and Jeremy Trueblood have both struggled with their conditioning.
Atlanta's schedule only gets tougher and more demanding. There's still a chance these three could get worse over the last 11 weeks.
Best-Case Scenario: 8-8 or 9-7 Is Good Enough for a Wild-Card Berth in the NFC
If there's a bright spot to the Falcons 1-4 start, it's the fact that three of their losses have come against AFC opponents.
That means that the Falcons can still finish with a strong conference record and put themselves in the hunt for a wild-card spot.
The Falcons will probably have to hope the rest of the NFC wild-card contenders finish with eight or nine wins to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, since they need to go 7-4 to finish 8-8 or 8-3 to finish 9-7 at this point.
The most feasible way for Atlanta to finish at 9-7 would be to either (a) win all of its remaining divisional games (which are usually close games by default) and win at Arizona, at Buffalo and at home against Washington, or (b) win all of its remaining home games and split its remaining road games at 3-3.
Worst-Case Scenario: Saints Get Top Seed in NFC PLayoffs, Win Super Bowl Again
Let's deal with the elephant in the room when many Falcons fans take a look at the current standings.
The Saints look legit at 5-1, and there's no reason to believe that they're going to suffer a collapse based on what we've seen thus far.
The first five weeks of this season were a nightmare for the Falcons on almost every front. If the rest of the season plays out the same way the first five weeks did, the absolute worst-case scenario for the Falcons (and their fans) would see the season end with the New Orleans Saints winning their second Super Bowl in five years.