The Falcons played two games in a hurry, with consecutive losses over a five-day span. Now they're in a slower period leading up to Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. They have three games before a bye and winning all three is both a realistic play and possibly a required one if they're seriously going to get back in the playoff hunt.
- 'You can make it about the quarterback, but what about the team?': Arthur Smith discusses Marcus Mariota's role in loss to Carolina
- Arthur Smith on Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder: 'There is no situation'
- Falcons release depth chart ahead of Week 11 game vs. Bears
- Inside Tori's Notebook: The Desmond Ridder ruckus and big swing in loss to Panthers
We've talked a ton about a quarterback situation despite the fact Arthur Smith said there is no situation, creating a relatively moot point and academic argument about who should lead the team during this crucial juncture in the season.
Let's take a look at the state of the team with a micro and macro perspective in this Wednesday Bair Mail.
Joshua Scott from Columbus, Ga.
There has been so much QB talk lately and I understand why. Hopefully you can, too. But how do you think Kyle Pitts has done this season? Has he taken a step back in his development?
Bair: I don't think so, Joshua. Kyle Pitts remains a standout player and a top-tier talent, even if his fantasy stats aren't sky high. He's obviously better as a blocker and some of the less noticeable things he's being asked to do these days. That said, the Falcons need him to become more of an offensive force. He's obviously reliant on the quarterback to deliver a catchable ball at a point where he's open and can make a play.
The biggest issue with Pitts' productivity is not targets. It's completion percentage to balls thrown his way. It hovers around 46 percent, a way-too-low number that speaks to inefficiency in the passing game. While every pass and catch is different, there's something to the fact that Marcus Mariota and Pitts need to find better chemistry. It's also true that Mariota will go to Pitts even when he's not totally open, which can drive completion percentage down. Last year, however, Matt Ryan completed 61 percent of his passes to Pitts. The Falcons function a lot better with a similar number.
I hate saying do better, but that's a bit of where we are with this situation. Execution needs to be increased with this connection. If that happens, the Falcons will be in better offensive shape. The passing game doesn't have to become a dominant producer. If simply needs to be an efficient accent piece.
Joseph Van Horn from Actworth, Ga.
What are your thoughts on the 2021 to 2022 improvement thus far for our Falcon team? I understand cap limits but have been frustrated where we take one step forward and two steps back. In comparing average yards per game on offense and defense between this year and last, we have not improved. In 2021, we ranked 29th in offense and this year we rank 27th. On defense, we ranked 26th in 2021 and in 2022, we rank 31st (next to last). It seems we have stayed the same on offense and gotten worse on defense. I know it takes time to turn it around but hearing coaches say no changes yet and how well we play on offense and defense in general is not backed up by the stats. The QB, LB (except Evans), OL, and DE positions seem to struggle. I hope the 2023 Free Agency/Draft will help.
Bair: I like the big-picture question, Joseph. Have the Falcons improved? Yes. The Falcons have two solid draft classes to build around. They're nearly right with the salary cap, and are competitive as heck with nearly $80 million in dead cap space. Imagine how much better the team will be when Terry Fontenot can spend that money on actual talent?
If we're purely looking at stats, maybe there isn't a huge jump. This remains a transition year, though, one where they're clearly missing some key components. And, yes, that includes question marks at the quarterback spot. They need more and better from the defensive front. They could use some depth in the secondary and at the receiver spot.
But they're better and deeper at several spots, using guys on rookie deals or one-year contracts who can be extended or released without incident. The Falcons are at a pivot point, and the organization is getting healthy again. So, yes, without a doubt, the team is far better than it was a year ago and is entering a hopeful period where they can get better in a hurry. If, of course, they make the right moves.
Kirby Killian from Monroe, Conn.
Hey Bair, it may be a bit early, but in the event we don't win out our divisional games, is there a way we could still potentially make the playoffs? So far we will have split all of our divisional games as we lost to everyone once and still have to play the saints and bucs again. I know that will require some losing on tampa's part and we will also have to go on a tear in this 3 game stretch we have coming up. While I don't necessarily think we could be Super Bowl bound, I could definitely see us making some waves and it'd be a huge morale booster to the team. Your thoughts?
Bair: The division seems like the best and most realistic path to the postseason. The NFC South is going through a down period, leaving the champion able to hover just slightly above .500 while claiming the title and the home playoff game that comes with it. The Falcons are currently the No. 10 overall seed in the NFC, a full two games back of the final wild card seed.
While we can absorb that information, I think it's clear that the Falcons need to focus on stacking wins over watching the standings. There's an opportunity to go on a run here in the season's later stages, but the team must get a lot better (and more consistent in all phases) to make that happen.
Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.
Will the fans get to see Damien Williams at all this year? He was a free agent signing meant to back up Patterson. Williams is the forgotten man and we may not get to see what he brought to the table since he has been on injured reserve.
Bair: Damien Williams remains on injured reserve, though he's ultimately eligible to return at any time. Young runners have stepped up in his absence, creating a logjam at the position that makes it hard to make a move there. If you bring Williams back, which back do you cut? This is just my opinion, but I don't think there's a way Caleb Huntley makes it through waivers. Avery Williams is a mainstay. Tyler Allgeier has earned his spot and Cordarrelle Patterson is a star. It's a rare position with tons of depth that the Falcons don't want to subject to picking from other teams.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Carolina Panthers on November 10, 2022.