The Falcons are 0-2 and in no position to look ahead or past anyone. We're not suggesting they do.
Sunday's game against the New York Giants is the only important thing in the Falcons universe. It has been a long time – like, nearly 10 months – since they've won a game. They could use a victory, like, stat.
"Your mindset has to be 'we've got to go get a win,'" head coach Arthur Smith said. "And you don't want us to sit here on Monday and keep talking about the team, 'Hey, you know this, we're close, this and that.' I mean, we need to break through."
A breakthrough could open a flood gate. The Falcons have an opportunity to compete and tally some wins over the next three games, when the schedule gets relatively soft.
The Falcons play at the New York Giants, home against Washington and then face the New York Jets over the next three weeks. Those teams have a combined 1-5 record to this point, creating opportunity for the Falcons to get right and get some wins.
A counter to this argument: Those teams could be looking at the winless Falcons as a way to get off the schneid.
The Falcons have a real chance to rebound after a disappointing start to the season and, while the one-day-at-a-timers won't love this topic, Tori McElhaney and Scott Bair (that's me. 'sup.) discuss this important three-game stretch in this week's Great Debate.
So, Tori, I'm gonna put you on the spot. That's the beauty of writing the intro. So...How would you define success during the next three games? How many do they have to win to walk into their bye week feeling good?
McElhaney: I think you have to win two of the three to feel OK with where you are come the bye week. Look, these are winnable games for the Falcons. I really do believe that. But I should note that I also thought this about the Falcons home opener against the Eagles. We all saw how that game turned out.
But I look at that third quarter against the Buccaneers this past Sunday and I see a team that looks like the team you want the Falcons to be. The defense came up with some timely stops and the offense converted in the red zone. I thought Matt Ryan said it best on Wednesday: "If you can do it once, you can do it again."
Ryan spoke at length about this singular phrase and how important it is for the Falcons. We need to see a consistency with this team that we haven't seen up until this point. We saw them play well for a quarter against Philadelphia. We saw them play well for a quarter against Tampa Bay. Against the Giants this weekend (and Washington and the Jets moving forward) we need to see consistent play carry over from one quarter to the next, from one half to the next. It's not enough for the Falcons to be a one-trick pony (or in this case: a one-quarter football team). They need to be complete.
In what areas do you think this idea of completeness matters the most, Scott?
Bair: It's about the basics: Blocking, tackling, keeping flags off the field. The Falcons need to be solid in those fundamental areas. That will allow their talent, at the skill positions especially to shine. If you do those things well and build a lead, if you stop the run consistently, then the edge rushers get home and create havoc. That's when you can take control and keep it.
The Falcons, however, don't have the talent base to overwhelm even lower-level teams with pure skill and speed. They'll have to work for their wins by playing clean, smart, fundamental football. And, as you put it, Tori, they have to play a complete game.
Arthur Smith's team hasn't done so yet. Now we're asking them to do so more than once. That's why this Giants game is so important. It can be a tone setter that starts a run of victories and better play that could build momentum heading toward the season's halfway point.
Notice, though, how many conditionals were just used. Lots of "if…then" statements, meaning a ton has to go right. So, Tori, can they bring it all together and go on a run? Could you see a scenario where (gasp!) they sweep this stretch and enter the bye on a three-game winning streak?
McElhaney: No. And I say no just because we haven't seen the Falcons play well enough to warrant a confident yes. I think we have seen spurts of the Falcons doing some really good things, but there is no consistency in the good. At least, there is no consistency yet through two games. I can absolutely see the Falcons winning a combination of the next three games heading into the bye week, but I think I have to pump the breaks on wholeheartedly saying there can be a sweep.
We just haven't seen a good enough – complete enough – performance from the Falcons. If the Falcons would have gone out against the Bucs and were competitive with them through all four quarters, my answer would be yes, they can win the next three games. But that's not what happened. I think there is a bit of hope that this could happen just based on the opponents, but I am not going to base my answer on a hypothetical when the reality of what we've seen from the Falcons up until this point is that they haven't shown consistency in play.
The Falcons have an opportunity to go on a roll leading up to the bye week. These are winnable games. But it completely depends on which Falcons team shows up. The third quarter team that came back against the Bucs? Or the second-half team that sputtered against the Eagles? If it's the former, a sweep could be in sight. If not, it'll be a long, and dejecting, three weeks.
The Atlanta Falcons push through a rainy practice as they prepare to face the New York Giants. Take a look at the best images in this gallery,