The Falcons are pressing forward into Week 17, which, isn't the regular season's last. We've got two more to go, with a trip to Buffalo upcoming.
They're technically still in it – you know what that means – and will try to improve an already sterling road record with a win over a top team. Beating an upper tier team has proved elusive, and a victory over the Bills would constitute another significant stride made this season.
Can they do it? Can individual records get broken? And, can Kyle Pitts find the end zone? And, how can the relationship between Arthur Smith and Matt Ryan continue to progress.
We get into all that and more in Wednesday's mailbag.
Bobby Gober from Virginia Beach, Va.
I think Kyle Pitts is having a really good season, but I was wondering why he doesn't seem to be a significant factor in the red zone, is it going to like all the years with Julio jones where he gets a lot of yards and very few touchdowns.
Bair: It is odd that Kyle Pitts only has one touchdown, but I think it's because he is such a significant factor in the red zone. Defenses are always accounting for him around the end zone, and Matt Ryan has shown he'll throw it where the coverage isn't. Sometimes that means the ball goes elsewhere, to less threatening targets like Hayden Hurst and Olamide Zaccheaus, who have been good securing scores.
That said, having only one touchdown remains odd. I think the Falcons would like him more involved than he has been on end zone targets. He hasn't gotten a few, though not a ton, in the red zone. Pitts has run 66 routes from the red zone, with four receptions for 24 yards on 13 targets, per TruMedia.
Greg Sandels from Buford, Ga.
Just wanted to express my pride in this ATL team. Coach Smith has gotten so much out of it staff…a few stumbles along the way, but teaching moments…and well learned. The future is looking bright in my eyes…I don't think Marty is going anywhere and hope he doesn't.
Bair: I think Arthur Smith has had a solid rookie season and the Falcons have made some strides. They'll have to do it all over again next season despite heavy roster turnover while the team gets right with the salary cap.
I don't think, however, there will be turnover at the starting quarterback position. In my opinion, considering his contract situation and performance, Matt Ryan will be back in 2022. I also think that will be benefit the Falcons, with Ryan and head coach Arthur Smith working together. They've formed a solid working relationship that will improve over time and increase the efficiency and chemistry between play caller and quarterback.
Smith called him "low maintenance," in a recent press conference. Easy to work with and talented is a good combo, especially for a new coach. I would expect better things from both in their second year working together.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hey, Scott, got a fun one for you. We all know the Falcons need "better players" and more depth. Can You, Tori and Kris name one player who's on the bubble but would make next year's team better if they stuck around, and why? Y'all have made this year fun, even with the bumpy ride we've all been on. Thanks!
Bair: Hey Will, always appreciate the questions. Tori and Kris are driving to the facility right now so I can't poll them, but maybe I'll add their responses later. Interesting topic. In terms of sticking around, I assume you're talking about guys on expiring contracts or who don't have established roles.
I'm going with Anthony Rush. He has carved out a nice role for himself since signing here during the season. You can read more about how the Falcons found him right here. He's the big body Dean Pees prefers on the interior, and has proven a solid run stopper. Maybe he's more of a secondary option behind a new upgrade at the position, but Rush could be a valued part of the rotation.
I'll also think Brandon Copeland and Daren Bates are good for this roster, too. And while he's anything but a bubble player, Lee Smith is another essential cog who is a valued member of the offense. I'll ask Tori and Kris what they think later on.
Clinton Hardy from Evans, Ga.
Bair, Hate to rain on all your sugar coating of the truth, but we are a sorry team especially on defense! the whole bunch needs to go and enough about play-offs, we would embarrass ourselves. By the way Kyle Pitts can't break Mike Ditka's record. Mike played in 14 games, so he has already missed the chance to beat Ditka's record.
Bair: I'm answering this question on Wednesday morning, while it's actually raining!! It's that you? I don't think you're addressing anything I haven't discussed before in this forum. The Falcons have tons of needs on both sides of the ball. I've said several times that the Falcons need edge rushers, plural. They need another interior presence and an outside cornerback, a slot corner if Isaiah Oliver doesn't come back.
And on this Pitts-Ditka thing. Always a debate. I happen to recognize Roger Maris' home run mark even though he did it in 162. Not a big fan of Barry Bonds' mark cause there sure seems to be a high probability he was, well, you know.
And, if we're gonna stick with football here, would the 1972 Dolphins have remained undefeated if they had to play 16 instead of 14? Who's the Falcons all-time sack leader? Is it Claude Humphrey, or are his now discovered numbers invalid because the sack wasn't a stat yet?
All these things are fun for debate, but I wouldn't put an asterisk next two Pitts name if he eclipses Dikta. Or, do you want to make a clear delineation between 14 and 16 games? If so, Pitts already owns that record over Jeremy Shockey.
Call for questions
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