Atlanta Falcons: Why Their Postseason Hopes Ended with the Julio Jones Injury
The Atlanta Falcons are 1-4, and I don't have to do much convincing to tell you that their odds of making the playoffs are all but completely and utterly eliminated.
Many experts had them pegged for a Super Bowl berth. Now, they are four games behind the New Orleans Saints for a division lead many thought was pretty much their birthright. Worst of all, their best playmaker in Julio Jones is gone for the season.
Without Jones, their once potent offence is now an afterthought. They've got a brutal schedule on their plate as far as defenses are concerned: Tampa Bay (twice), Carolina, Seattle and New Orleans all remain on their schedule. All of those defensive units rank inside the top 10 on Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency list.
Jones was the engine that drove this offense, given Roddy White's debilitating high-ankle sprain. He's the NFL league leader in receptions and is second in receiving yards behind Jimmy Graham of the Saints; he is also Atlanta's most explosive weapon with nine plays of more than 20 yards.
With that threat gone, Steven Jackson's hamstring pull and White's hamstring and ankle problems, the Falcons are facing the possibility of Harry Douglas as their No. 1 receiver.
No, that is not a joke.
Tony Gonzalez is going to get double-teamed everywhere he lines up on the field, and that'll hurt Atlanta exactly where it has been struggling. The Falcons' main weakness this season has been their efficiency in the red zone. Jones represented nearly 20 percent of Atlanta's total offense in the red zone.
With the way the Saints are playing, it'll be impossible to make up a four-game difference in one of the toughest divisions in all of football, the NFC South.
At this point, the Falcons pretty much don't have a choice but to get in as a wild card. You have to assume either Seattle or San Francisco (whichever doesn't win the West) is going to be one of those. That leaves Atlanta to compete with the likes of Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay to slip into the sixth and final spot.
Without their top weapon, and after a horrid start in an impossibly tough conference, the Atlanta Falcons need to take a long look in the mirror. They've gone from Super Bowl contender to a fringe playoff contender heading into their bye week.
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