The injury bug has not only bitten the Falcons, but it has nearly devoured their chance to make the playoffs this season. Roddy White and Steven Jackson have both been dealing with their own injuries. It leaves the 100-year old Tony Gonzalez to carry this team offensively.
Matt Ryan has been fortunate to have a consistent running attack with Michael Turner, but he’s no longer on the team. Can he be effective without help in the backfield?
Ryan is a top-10 quarterback in this league, but a quarterback is only as good as his receivers. With Jones out for the season and White slowed down with his own injury, Gonzalez and Harry Douglass is the only two receivers/tight ends with any chemistry with Ryan. Drew Davis and Kevin Cone are the only other wide receivers on the roster.
Atlanta’s receivers may not be the biggest problem. Jackson has missed the last two games. The backfield of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling is left to handle the rushing attack. Rodgers is a smaller third-down back and Snelling is a large, punishing force. Luckily, both are quite good at catching the ball. If the defense double-teams Gonzalez, then either back is a nice check-down option. Other than helping in that area, Atlanta will have trouble gaining yards on the ground.
As of today, Atlanta sits tied for second in the worst division in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints are expected to run away with the NFC South. The other three teams, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta, all look destined for top-10 picks in next year’s NFL Draft. Carolina and Tampa Bay have coaches on the hot seat.
If Atlanta can take care of their in-division games, they do have an outside shot at the playoffs. The NFC West and NFC North looks destined to each have two teams in the playoffs, thus making it difficult for Atlanta to sniff the postseason.
If Atlanta trades Gonzalez (which is only a rumor), they could tanked this season to help rebuild their lack of depth. I don’t see that happening, but it’s not inconceivable.
Unless Atlanta goes on a long winning streak, I don’t see them making the playoffs. If they draft a running back or sign one in the offseason (i.e. Ben Tate), they could battle New Orleans for the NFC South in 2014.