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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, DeMarcco Hellams, Richie Grant and Tre Flowers, plus what it'll take to win NFC South

Falcons must stack wins down the stretch to come out on top of the division for the first time since 2016. 

The Falcons took a positive step forward with Sunday's two-score victory over the New Orleans Saints. They snapped a three-game losing streak. They remained perfect in the NFC South. They beat a rival and, if we're being frank, the Falcons sure looked like they wanted it badly.

That was all well and good, but it only, truly matters if it's the start of a trend. The Falcons need to start "stacking wins," as Arthur Smith and others put it, to build on the aggressive, attacking nature – I can hear Ryan Nielsen's voice in my head as I type this — of how the Falcons played and apply it to future contests.

That starts with a Week 13 road clash with the New York Jets when the Falcons will try to win two straight since the start of the season.

There's plenty to discuss about what's required to win that game and the NFC South in this Wednesday edition of Bair Mail. Let's get started.


Will Smith from Centerville, Ga.

Hi Scott. Weighing the good vs. the bad against the Saints, do you see Ridder as our franchise QB going forward? Thanks for Y'all's good work.

Bair: I'll look at a more complete body of work when making that evaluation, Will. And in both the Saints game and the season overall, I see some good and some not so good. I see moxie and toughness and clutch play from Desmond Ridder. I also see the turnovers (you really can't have them in the red zone) and questionable decisions and at times more inaccuracy than preferred.

Then you take all that and put into the context of him being a young player learning the NFL game. But, is he improving on a large enough scale? Are we seeing development that suggests he could become a really good player after ironing out details and combining that with clutch play?

Those are all questions without concrete answers, but you'll need to have them by the time this season's through. Ridder needs to inspire confidence in all those areas, making Falcons brass feel a certain type of way when evaluating their options this offseason. Even if they go for a more veteran option or use a high draft pick to take one, Ridder's still under contract for two more seasons after this and will continue to grind and work and develop to further his career.

Whether that's as the Falcons franchise quarterback, in my mind, remains an unknown. I will say this about Ridder: he wants the ball in his hands and he doesn't flinch when it's there. You either have that quality or you don't. Can Ridder find consistency in other areas? If so, he can secure this job.

Daniel Hayes from Savannah, Ga.

What did you think of the new rotations on Sunday? We saw more of DeMarcco Hellams, and Tre Flowers played a bit as well. Could we see that moving forward?

Bair: It's certainly possible, Daniel, as the Falcons continue to use the strengths of their depth chart.

Hellams has been solid this season despite relatively low outside expectations for a seventh-round pick. The Alabama product has been involved since the early portions of the season as a third safety in some sub packages, paired with Jessie Bates deep while Richie Grant played in or close to the box.

We saw more of him against New Orleans, with 6 tackles (including three stuffs) over 36 defensive snaps. Grant played 51 defensive snaps, though a lower percentage than normal. While Grant's play has been criticized at times, he hasn't been all bad.

"(DeMarcco) makes plays when his number is called," Smith said. " You give guys opportunities. He continues to make plays. He's done a good job. There's a lot of trust, and there's a role for all of them. I thought all three safeties played really well. I thought it was one of Richie's better games. 'Marcco, he's an instinctive football player, and then Jessie had a huge impact, but I thought all three of those guys played really well yesterday."

I think that's a smart move overall. Tre Flowers played a bit more than usual, rotating in for a spell with Jeff Okudah, though the starting cornerback told ESPN that it was designed to keep defensive backs fresh while playing lots of man coverage.

I like that the Falcons are thinking outside the box, making subtle adjustments over straight personnel swaps. That's a smart way to start using the talents of as many as can be impactful in a particular matchup.

Camereon Williams from Snellville, Ga.

Hey Bair. Falcons got a much-needed win against the Saints this past Sunday. Would you say the Falcons have what it takes to stack some wins and win the division finally? The schedule at the moment shows the majority of the teams the Falcons are facing in the coming weeks being below .500 teams. I think it's now or never over the next six weeks. Would you say the same?

Bair: I have been saying, Camereon, that 9-8 should secure this division, especially with a dominant record within the NFC South. That means the Falcons have to finish 4-2 to reach that mark. They have three division games left, meaning they'd only reach that mark with another division win to put them 4-0 and in good position to win that tiebreaker or force another one.

Now on to your main question. Can the Falcons do it down the stretch? If they play how they did against New Orleans, they certainly can. In fact, I think that's the Falcons recipe for victory.

They need to continue dominance up front leading an efficient, powerful run game, a pass game that makes its mark once or twice and a stingy defense in the red zone and in generating turnovers. If they can do that, they can take the NFC South in its current state.

If they add consistent quarterback play, or fewer critical mistakes at least, the Falcons can compete with most anyone.

Now, they haven't been able to stack wins yet, but this game and the practice week leading up to it provided positive reinforcement that the blueprint works. Now the Falcons have to prepare and execute the same way to reach their goals.

Call for questions

Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the next edition of Bair Mail.

Take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints during Week 12.

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