Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 11

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Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 11
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Before Sunday, the last time the Atlanta Falcons had lost a regular-season home game by a margin greater than 21 points was in 2009 when Michael Vick played his first game in the Georgia Dome as a Philadelphia Eagle.

The Eagles annihilated a Falcons squad that was playing without Matt Ryan and Michael Turner that afternoon, and Vick scored a touchdown late in the game that drew a loud combination of cheers and jeers from the Georgia Dome crowd.

As humiliating as that day was for Atlanta, Sunday's 33-10 Seahawks' win may have been worse.  The Falcons looked like a shell of the team that beat Seattle in the playoffs, and any hopes for their miracle season turnaround ended when Seahawks receiver Golden Tate caught a touchdown pass over Robert Alford seconds before halftime.

As disappointing as Sunday's result was, the Falcons have to get themselves up for seven more games beginning with this week's matchup against Tampa Bay.

We'll start our Week 11 coverage by taking an updated look at the NFC South standings, the Falcons injury report and discussing Atlanta's outlook moving forward after its Week 10 loss to Seattle.

 

NFC South Standings

NFC South Standings
Team Record vs. NFC South vs. NFC Week 11
New Orleans Saints 7-2 2-0 5-0 vs. San Francisco
Carolina Panthers 6-3 2-0 6-2 vs. New England
Atlanta Falcons 2-7 1-2 2-4 at Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-8 0-3 0-6 vs. Atlanta

NFL.com

New Orleans bounced back from its Week 9 loss in New York with a dominant 49-17 win over the Cowboys in front of a raucous crowd at the Super Dome.  After Carolina's impressive win in San Francisco, it's looking like the division could come down to two games between the Panthers and Saints that will take place over the course of three weeks in December.

Both the Saints and Panthers have key showdowns at home this week against the 49ers and Patriots.

The Falcons will get the opportunity to play the spoiler role twice since they have home games remaining against both teams.

Tampa Bay notched its first win of the year in a hard-fought game against an embattled Miami Dolphins team and will be looking to win another this week against the Falcons.

 

Injury Report 

Atlanta Falcons Injury Report
Player Injury Expected Return Date
Mike Johnson Leg Out for Season
Kroy Biermann Achilles Out for Season
Bradie Ewing Shoulder Out for Season
Julio Jones Foot Out for Season
Sean Weatherspoon Foot Expected to be Activated from IR this Week
Sam Baker Knee TBD
Tony Gonzalez Toe TBD

AtlantaFalcons.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Left tackle Sam Baker was a surprise scratch on Sunday against Seattle due to his nagging knee injury, and his status for this week's game in Tampa is unknown at the moment. 

"Yes it is a concern," Mike Smith said of Baker's knee via AtlantaFalcons.com.  "When you can’t go out and play consecutive games, you have to be concerned about it.  Sam’s doing everything he can in terms of getting back out there and we wanted to make sure that he’s 100 percent before we put him back out on the football field.”

It will be interesting to see if Atlanta gives undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder a look at right tackle over veteran Jeremy Trueblood if Baker continues to miss games.

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Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon hasn't played since Week 2 against the Rams, but he's expected to be activated this week.  As impressive as rookie linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu have been, Weatherspoon has probably been the most vocal leader of Atlanta's defense since ex-Falcon Curtis Lofton left via free agency.  If Weatherspoon does return, the defense should get some of its flavor back.

Tony Gonzalez suffered a toe injury against the Seahawks.  It's unclear if he'll have to miss any time right now. 

"I played on it," Gonzalez said after Sunday's game via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. "Wasn’t able to go full speed, but we’ll see how it goes the next day. Usually when you have injuries, you can get through it through the game. Then the next day after it calms down and swells up a little bit, then that’s when the trouble starts. So, we’ll see how goes. Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up, and hopefully it’s not that bad."

 

Where the Falcons Go from Here 

Many Falcons fans may be tempted to look ahead to the offseason with the team sitting at 2-7, but don't expect Atlanta to pack it in and look forward to 2014 just yet.

Mike Smith made a point to say that the team will continue to play to win games down the stretch, and for the players in the Falcons locker room, the stretch starts this week at Tampa.

Atlanta may be playing to win, but the reality is that this team's fate was probably sealed in Sunday's loss to Seattle.

For most of this season, the Falcons have looked like a team that was still dealing with a hangover from its loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game last season. 

Now that those expectations are gone, it's going to be interesting to see how the team responds.

Will the Falcons play loose and display more aggression, or will they sleepwalk through the last seven weeks like they did on Sunday?

We should move closer to having an answer to that question after this week's contest against the 1-8 Buccaneers.

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