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Bair Mail: On Bijan Robinson, Arthur Smith and the wins required to win NFC South

We discuss the Falcons run game, play calling and avoiding mistakes in this Friday mailbag

Welcome, Falcons fans, to the final stretch run. We're in it now, with four games remaining in this season. We should consider most of them must-win.

It'll take a run to claim the NFC South – you'll have to read on to see how many victories are required – and quality play must accompany a strong finish.

Let's waste no time getting topics you want addressed in this Friday edition of Bair Mail:


Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.

Now Scott will we get any enlightenment from the coach if he will finally realize that Bijan Robinson left and right sprinkled in with some throws to him out of the backfield?

Bair: Bijan Robinson's usage has been a hot topic most of the season, hasn't it, Barry? Head coach Arthur Smith has been deliberate about how much he has used the No. 8 overall pick, especially in an NFL rookie year where he'll likely take more carries than at any point in his athletic life.

He had 269 total offensive touches over 12 games of his junior year at the University of Texas. He has 209 through 12 games – we're not counting Week 5, when he had one touch due to illness – with the Falcons and four more left on the docket.

The Falcons also have Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson to give carries too, and, ironically, I've answered questions about why those guys don't get more touches, also. That shows that Smith is basically in a no-win situation in this regard, even though the run game has been steadily productive excluding the Tampa Bay game in Week 14, when four of the starters up front missed at least some time, for the sixth-ranked rushing attack.

All that said, it's time to let Robinson loose. The rookie is ready for it, and Smith has shown a willingness to let him touch the ball 20-plus times in a game. He's an explosive playmaker and can be a game changer. So can Allgeier and Patterson. It's about finding the right time to use all that talent.

Jeff C from Greensboro, N.C.

Scott, the offense has been bogged down due to turnovers for sure, but much more frequently, then simply fail to move the ball and have to punt after no, or almost no yards. All the talk is about Ridder which I agree with but what about the play calling? Arthur is supposed to be a great offensive mind, but I have a hard time seeing it when this offense is subpar every week. What do you think?

Bair: I'm answering this one because I got tons of questions on this topic. There is a discrepancy between the Falcons total yardage (ranked No. 15) and scoring offense (ranked No. 24), which isn't a great thing. Whether it's play design or talent allocation or being just a bit out of sync, the Falcons must do better in the red area and consistently gaining yards. There have been third-quarter lulls, and some scoring issues at the end of halves.

And then there are the critical mistakes that have plagued the Falcons so often this season, even when they pile up yardage. That's probably the biggest issue to this point. They don't even have to eliminate turnovers or blunders. They need to minimize them and make sure they don't have turnovers in either red zone. If that happens, the Falcons will be much tougher to beat.

I'm sure there are calls head coach/offensive play caller Arthur Smith would like to have back – I'm sure there are a few you don't agree with – and I'm sure there have been moments where the play calls have impacted games. Smith is a creative offensive mind and someone who has buy-in from the locker room.

All that said, I don't think a new play caller makes everything bright. It's a combination of a lot of things but, bottom line, the Falcons must be in greater sync.

Ed Helinski from Auburn, N.Y.

Please gaze into your crystal ball or check with psychic medium to see how the rest of the Falcons season will shake out. Could a 9-8 or 8-9 record win the division?

Bair: I've been saying for weeks that a 9-8 record will get it done in the NFC South, especially for the Falcons. That's because they've got so many division games left that a 3-1 record should lock it down. That would include at least one more NFC South win, maybe two. That should help the tiebreaker and the NFC record.

Tampa Bay's in the catbird seat, and have three more division games left. If both teams go 9-8, odds are great the Bucs advance. Everything's wide open down the stretch, though 3-1 is almost a must. I don't forsee all three teams ending up at 8-9, or one team at that mark and others below it.

It'll take a surge down the stretch, and the Falcons know it. They need consistency and quality play over this stretch to win the division.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch for the game against the Carolina Panthers.

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