We've got a rivalry game coming up on Sunday, with a chance for the Falcons to knock the Saints out of the playoffs. Fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium would certainly enjoy that, which has happened a few times in this series' history.
A debate still rages, however, about whether a win or a higher NFL draft pick (that comes with another loss) is preferable in the long run. I include my opinion below (no spoilers here) on that matter and several others in the final mailbag of the regular season.
Let's dive right into it in Friday's Bair Mail:
Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.
Scott, after reading Kris Rhim's article on Cordarrelle Patterson why not finish his career in Atlanta, so don't you think that it's possible and encouraging that he could resign with the falcons for a hometown discount to remain a falcons for next season and not chase the $? And, how great would this be for our offense next season?
Bair: Cordarrelle Patterson wants to return to the Falcons. Can they make an extension work for both sides? That's the question, more than whether Patterson would take a hometown discount. I never believed in those. Not sure I'd take one. I wouldn't expect a player too, either, especially with a relatively short earning window.
Getting Patterson back would be a huge boon for the offense, which needs more skill players to help out Patterson and Kyle Pitts. While the Falcons could lock Patterson up before free agency begins, his open market value might dictate what happens with him, whether he stays or goes.
Fenn Davis from Andover, N.H.
While I understand that we still need to fix the issues on offense I think defense should be the main focus. We have a decent running back in Patterson. Four good receivers in Hurst, Pitts, Gage, and Ridley (presuming he returns) and I'd definitely say the Matt Ryan has a year or two left in the tank. Our biggest offensive issue is the O line. Matthews and Lindstrom are really all we have in my eyes. Be that as it may, our defense needs improvement, we need a better pass rush if we want to put pressure on the other team.
Bair: You aren't wrong, Fenn. It's time to help the defense improve in two areas coordinator Dean Pees identified during his Thursday press conference: improving the pass rush (without blitzing) and playing well in man coverage. That requires athletes. And it typically requires some higher NFL draft picks to turn things around. If they can do that, without losing Foye Oluokun or Isaiah Oliver in free agency, that would be a win.
I think edge rusher is the top need – they need more than one – and outside cornerback is right there. Maybe an interior defensive lineman, too. They have so many holes they can't reach. They just have to add one good player after another, whenever possible.
John Danner from Duluth, Ga.
I've read much about talent being the reason Falcons aren't better than they are. However, prior to season, offense was projected top 10 by some media. There were a lot of reasons to be optimistic: Matt Ryan, offensive line with some #1 picks and some experience, wide receiver corps looking good, obtained a running back who was proven last year, Hayden Hurst & Kyle Pitts, plus great offensive minded head coach. Offense currently ranks 27th by pro-football reference. What happened?
Bair: Attrition has really hurt the offense. They lost Calvin Ridley early on, which was a severe blow. Russell Gage was hurt for some spells, and it took a while for him to find a rhythm. Hayden Hurst missed time.
And, while they had some good moments, they had some issues at left guard, center and right tackle over the course of the year. Overall, the Falcons struggled against better defensive fronts, and took some time to establish the run. Due to some major losses and some underwhelming performances, this offense didn't live up to the hype. The Falcons scheme is good. Their quarterback can play. They need more talent up front and at the skill spots, maybe more than originally anticipated.
The Atlanta Falcons take it to their indoor facility as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Saints. Take a look at the best images in this gallery.
Clint Hardy from Evans, Ga.
We don't need to win this game against the Saints. Moving up the draft order is more IMPORTANT than a Win!! What are your thoughts?
Bair: I understand the logic behind it, Clint. The better chance you have to get the player you want is more beneficial than a win when the playoffs are off the table. That all makes sense, especially considering the Falcons could end up with the No. 7 pick if they lose, the No. 14 pick if they win. That said, I just can't get there. Not in me to say a loss is ever better than a win. I can guarantee Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot feel the same way, even if they're thinking big picture.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.