Eighteen weeks later and here we are. The final expert picks of the 2021 NFL season. The Falcons may not be playing for a playoff position but there is still plenty on the line. Sunday's result will determine draft order, our 2022 opponents, but most importantly the chance to knock the Saints out of playoff contention to cap off the season. That's right the Falcons have the chance rain on the Saints parade knocking them out of their two-team playoff race with the 49ers.
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- The unlikely bond between Lee Smith and Kyle Pitts
- Bair Mail: On future of Falcons running backs, free agency needs and trading up in NFL draft
- 'I want to finish my career here:' Cordarrelle Patterson on free agency, a breakout season
Beyond a chance to spoil the Saints season there are a few milestones still on the horizon for the Falcons. Kyle Pitts sits just 59 yards shy of Mike Ditka's rookie tight end receiving record (1,076). Though his availability on Sunday still isn’t certain after suffering a hamstring injury against the Bills, he has notched nine games of 59+ yards already this season so there is a good chance he breaks the record if he suits up.
Matt Ryan has a pair of milestones up for grabs on Sunday. If he throws for at least 248 yards it will mark his 11th consecutive 4000 yard passing season of his career. He also needs just one touchdown to pass Eli Manning (366) for ninth in all-time passing touchdowns in NFL history.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills during Week 17.
The Falcons defense will be tested for the second week in a row trying to contain a mobile quarterback. Taysom Hill should firmly be under center on Sunday, a problem the Falcons only had to deal with for a handful of plays when they last played as Hill was returning from injury. Returning some key defensive pieces this week in Marlon Davidson, off the Covid-19/reserve list, and Fabian Moreau hopefully coming back from a rib injury, should ease the burden.
On the offensive side for the Falcons, though Pitts' status is still up in the air, the rest of the receiving core should be almost full and ready to make some noise. Hayden Hurst and Tajae Sharpe were both activated off the Covid-19/reserve list this week. Don't forget that Olamide Zaccheaus put up two touchdowns down in New Orleans and will be looking to build off of that on Sunday.
With all that to take in, for one last time, let's take a look at who the experts have picked to win on Sunday
*Picks made as of Jan. 6
|Author | Outlet||Pick||2021 Record|
|Jarrett Bell | USA Today||Saints||12-4|
|Matt Bowen | ESPN||Saints||10-6|
|Gregg Rosenthal | NFL.com||Saints||10-6|
|Gary Davenport | Bleacher Report||Falcons||9-7|
|Brad Gagnon | Bleacher Report||Saints||11-5|
|Vinnie Iyer | Sporting News||Falcons||12-4|
|Rob Ninkovich | ESPN||Saints||10-5|
|Jason La Confora | CBS Sports||Saints||12-4|
|Pete Prisco | CBS Sports||Saints||10-6|
|Lorenzo Reyes | USA Today||Saints||11-5|