We may have an idea of where this Falcons team is physically after watching it get pounded in its past two losses, but this week's game should tell us a lot about where this team is mentally.
Through eight games, Atlanta has already lost twice as many games at it did last season, and it will face five teams with winning records over the final eight weeks.
While the playoffs are almost certainly out of the question, the team can still build some momentum for next season by winning some games down the stretch and building some confidence for its younger players.
Will the Falcons start the second half of the season by laying an egg at home against Seattle, or will they find a way to pull of an upset?
Let's begin our game-week coverage by taking a look at the updated NFC South Standings, the Falcons' injury report and what the Falcons need to focus on this week heading into Sunday's matchup with Seattle.
NFC South Standings
|NFC South Standings|
|Team||Record||vs. NFC South||vs. NFC||Week 10|
|New Orleans Saints||6-2||2-0||4-0||vs. Dallas|
|Carolina Panthers||5-3||2-0||5-2||at San Francisco|
|Atlanta Falcons||2-6||1-2||2-3||vs. Seattle|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0-8||0-3||0-6||vs. Miami|
The Carolina Panthers solidified their position as the New Orleans Saints' biggest threat in the division with Sunday's win over the Falcons.
The Panthers have now won four straight after a 1-3 start. Now that they are in the thick of the wild-card hunt in the NFC, the challenge for Carolina will be to navigate its way through the last eight weeks of the season where it will face San Francisco, New England, the Jets and the Saints twice.
In addition, the Panthers have a Week 17 contest in Atlanta against the Falcons that may provide Atlanta with a chance to play spoiler. Will the Panthers' last-second loss at Buffalo in Week 2 come back to haunt them? Only time will tell.
The Saints' Week 9 loss at the Meadowlands to the Jets may have made some Falcons fans feel better about Atlanta's loss to New York, but like Carolina, the Jets excel in three areas where the Falcons struggle: running the football, stopping the run and rushing the passer. New York made things difficult for Drew Brees all afternoon, and ex-Saints (and Falcons killer) running back Chris Ivory had a big day on the ground.
New Orleans will look to bounce back this week against Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's (and Sean Payton's for that matter) former team.
Elsewhere, the Bucs will try for their first win of the season on Monday Night Football against the Dolphins.
The Falcons are four games back in the division with eight games to go. It looks like the NFC South won't have a repeat champion again this year.
|Atlanta Falcons Injury Report|
|Player||Injury||Expected Return Date|
|Mike Johnson||Leg/Ankle||Out for Season|
|Bradie Ewing||Shoulder||Out for Season|
|Kroy Biermann||Achilles Tear||Out for Season|
|Julio Jones||Foot Fracture||Out for Season|
|Sean Weatherspoon||Foot||Week 11 at the Earliest|
|AtlantaFalcons.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker returned to the lineup against the Panthers and did a solid job against Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy in pass protection. However, the Falcons continue miss wide receiver Roddy White's presence in the passing game and in the huddle because of his swagger and playmaking ability.
White was a game-time decision against Carolina, so perhaps he can return this week to face Richard Sherman and the Seattle secondary.
Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters injured his knee during the Carolina game and planned to undergo an MRI on Monday, per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure:
Falcons DT Corey Peters said he's going to undergo an MRI on Monday to check out his left knee.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) November 3, 2013
Peters has been one of Atlanta's more consistent players along the defensive line this season. If he has to miss any significant time, it may be time for the team to give second-year defensive tackle Travian Robertson or rookie defensive tackle Adam Replogle (practice squad) a look.
What Needs to Improve as Atlanta Moves Forward This Week
The Falcons have lost their past two games to the Panthers and Cardinals by a combined score of 61-23. Some fans may be tempted to blame those results on injuries, but other teams like Green Bay, New England, Seattle and Chicago have all remained competitive despite losing key players to injuries.
At this point, it's about attitude for the Falcons. Atlanta can fold up over these last eight weeks and finish with a top-five draft pick, but it's hard to imagine that this team—which consists of veterans like Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babineaux and Roddy White—would want to be any part of a "tank job."
Instead, the Falcons just need to focus on winning a home game this week against a Seattle team that just isn't the same team when it's away from CenturyLink Field.
Sunday's game looked intriguing when the NFL's schedule was released because it's a rematch of last year's NFC divisional playoff game that the Falcons won. If Roddy White returns to the lineup, the Falcons may be able to pull off an upset.
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