Good morning and welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons have turned their attention towards Sunday's showdown with the New Orleans Saints – and you've got plenty of questions. Just remember, all opinions you see in this space are mine, unless otherwise noted.
And we're off.
Tim from Corona, CA
Monday night was the first time I saw Matt Ryan play with an edge all season. Steve Sarkisian isn't the whole problem, but he is a part of it. We are so inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball. Although we have the same pieces we did last year we are a completely different team. It's strange for me to say this but we are a defensive team now. I have been waiting for our offense to show up like it did last year but, sad to say, it's not gonna happen. One thing I can say though is that we have not played our best football. Is it possible for us? Be honest. To just have everything fixed all of a sudden heading into Week 16 and make a run. I honestly would like us to play power football and play defense. Ryan should not be throwing 30-plus times anymore.
Matt: Wow. Am I missing something? The Falcons are 6-2 in their last eight games, are 3-1 in the NFC South and are 8-2 vs. NFC opponents. They're one game away from clinching a playoff berth and two wins away from capturing the NFC South championship. They have a top-10 defense and one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Where's the big problem, Tim? Do the Falcons have some weaknesses or areas they need to improve in? Absolutely. But every single team does. And, yes, it would have been nice to see the Falcons slam the door shut following Devonta Freeman's touchdown run, but they didn't. Was Matt Ryan perfect on Monday night? He completed 17 of 31 for 212 yards and a touchdown and he ran three times for 29 yards. Not exactly gawdy stats, but he was effective when he needed to be. As to your question about making a run, yes, I think they can win out. I also think they can go 1-1 down the stretch, get into the playoffs and go on a postseason run, too.
Jakob from Bretten, Germany
Hey Beek, how about those dirty birds, huh? Don't know if I'm ever gonna sit through a game without living in fear of a heart attack, but I think the whole "Atlanta can't finish" talk should be done with now (looking at the last couple games and also early season games like Detroit). What do you think? Also, I don't know if it's just me, but the Falcons seem to be a bit of a grim reaper this season. So many teams we played had a lot of players go down during the games. Anyway, two to go and on to the playoffs! Love for my Falcons from Germany!
Matt: Guten Tag, Jakob! The Falcons have been involved in in a bunch of close games this season, that's for sure. Looking through the schedule and results, the Falcons have been in 10 games decided by six points or less. And, yes, there's something to be said for teams that know how to win those kinds of games, Jakob. Having done it so many times and figuring out ways to pull out a win can only help. And yes, it also means they know how to finish.
Gus from Gaithersburg, MD
Hello again, Beek. Good win against the Bucs on Monday night, although not as dominant as many expected, but a win is a win. Beek I have to say the Falcons defense has finally arrived and I couldn't be happier. I think Keanu Neal is one of the most underrated defensive players in the entire league. My question this week is: how do you think the Saints offense will match up against our defense as we all know the Saints are tough to beat at home and this win for us means playoffs. Thanks, Beek, and keep up the good work.
Matt: The stat that really sticks out to me is total points given up, Gus. The Falcons have surrendered 282 points or 20.1 points per game, which is tied for ninth-best in the NFL (the other team just happens to be the Saints). A lot of people will go by total yards surrendered, by points are what matter most, right? The Falcons, by the way, and ranked ninth in yards per game with 323.6. Again, in the top 10. That's huge as they gear up for a postseason run. And yes, Keanu Neal's play is a big factor, too. The second-year free safety has been credited with 70 tackles and 29 assists so far this season and set an NFL record for most forced fumbles in the first two seasons by a defensive back when he forced a fumble in the second quarter of the Falcons' win over the Buccaneers on Monday night.
William from Charleston, SC
Hello Beek. Nail-biter again, but a great victory. I was really impressed to see Ryan so intense in the game. I guess he always is, but to hear him from the line of scrimmage hollering at a teammate was great. His determination on his runs tells a story, too. We're living on the edge, but it is the time to survive and play again – and we're getting pretty good at that. How are you feeling moving forward?
Matt: You're so right, William. Ryan is intense out there, and it's always fun to watch him perform. The running – and that juke move – was an added treat. Who knew.
As far as how I feel goes … look, outside of having home field locked up and a top seed, you can't ask for more as a fan. Everything is on the table for the Falcons heading into the final two weeks of the regular season – a division title and a home playoff game. They control their own fate, which is a heck of a lot better than having it decided by another set of outcomes. Enojy the ride, William.
George from San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Good afternoon everyone. I am thrilled we pulled off a win!! That being said, our struggles are HUGE! We managed to squeak by New Orleans and Tampa Bay, although both teams were riddled with injuries during the game. I know I should be more positive, after all this is what you preach, Beek. But the truth is our offense is not where it should be! I hope DQ can be honest to the organization and himself, and recognize things are not working. I do not see how our team can beat a healthy Saints team in New Orleans, or an LA Rams team that looks scary good. Comments?
Matt: When you're sitting at 9-5, a game out of first place in your division with two weeks to go in the regular season, I'd say things are working quite well, George. And should you win both games, you'll be division champions for the second straight year. That's pretty good, too. So how can you say things aren't working? Sure, the Saints look good. But the Falcons beat them once already. I know the bar is higher around here because of last season, but stop and look at all of the teams that have already been eliminated. And one other note here: it doesn't matter how you get into the postseason, either. Just get in. And the Falcons are one win away from accomplishing that, too. One win away. This is fun stuff, George!
Tony from Redding, CA
Hello Beek, first and foremost, I want to thank you again for this awesome column that lets us Falcons fans vent. It's like therapy for me ... lol!! So, it was nice to get a win Monday night but something is not right still with this team. The Bucs were basically down to their second team defense with all the injuries and their offense was pretty beat up, too. Yet we barely squeaked it out. Ryan has been missing open receivers all year and his deep throws have not been accurate as well. We are not using our weapons nearly enough, Julio needs to get ball in his hands period! Our RBs are mismatches against any linebacker or safety yet their averaging a little over one catch a game and Taylor Gabriel with his amazing speed and quickness, is nonexistent. I keep hearing, well the Falcons haven't hit on all cylinders yet in a game. I'm beginning to wonder if they will this year. All I know is they're gonna have to play their best two games of the year coming up or it won't turn out well. What's your thoughts on my concerns? Keep up the great work Beek!! Go Falcons!
Matt: Again, the Falcons are in good shape heading into the final two games of the season. And let's not forget it was a divisional game on the road on an emotional night for the Buccaneers. That said, the game should not have been as close as it ended up being. And I also get what you're saying … which is the Falcons will need to play much better than they did on Monday night to have a chance at beating the Saints at home. And I agree with you. But I think the Falcons will be ready for this one – so much is at stake, namely, a playoff berth. The AFC South crown is up for grabs, too. It's going to be an intense game, no doubt.
Charles from Bel Air, MD
Hey, Beek. Huge fan of your column and longtime Falcons fan (originally from the ATL). What is the attitude/mood in the locker room and around ATL following the Tampa Bay win? Obviously, a win is a win. I'm excited about the playoff berth potential but can't help but to be disappointed we struggled against a banged up 4-9 (now 4-10) Bucs team. Maybe my expectations are too high at this point. Thoughts?
Matt: As I've noted in a number of responses above, all that matters is that the Falcons won, Charles. It doesn't matter by how much. A win is a win, you're right. And a road win against a division rival, is even better. The Falcons are now 3-1 in the NFC South and one game away from clinching a playoff berth. They're two wins away from capturing the NFC South championship. Every game is different and all that matters now is beating New Orleans. That's it. Don't fret the style points (or lack of) against the Buccaneers.