Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Headed into Week 15

Al Bruce@@AlBruce7Contributor IJune 16, 2016

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have three games left in what has been the team's most disappointing regular season since its second consecutive winter collapse under Jim Mora Jr. in 2006 (tough to call 2007 a disappointment because not much was expected from the Falcons after Michael Vick's suspension).

This week the Falcons will welcome another 2012 playoff participant who has fallen on hard times into the Georgia Dome.

A season after winning their first division title since 1999, the Washington Redskins are in the NFC cellar with the Falcons at 3-10, and questions continue to swirl about head coach Mike Shanahan's future with the team.

Before the season, Sunday's contest may have been viewed as a game that would have serious playoff implications.  Instead, this battle of 3-10 teams will go a long way towards determining the top of this year's draft order.

Today we'll begin our coverage of this Sunday's game with our weekly look at the NFC South standings, Atlanta's injury report and the biggest question facing the Falcons this week.


NFC South Standings 

NFC South Standings
TeamRecordvs. Divisionvs. ConferenceWeek 15 Opponent
New Orleans Saints10-34-08-1at Rams
Carolina Panthers9-43-17-3vs. Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4-91-42-7vs. 49ers
Atlanta Falcons3-101-42-7vs. Redskins

The Falcons are in sole possession of the last-place slot in the division by virtue of their loss to Green Bay and Tampa's victory over Buffalo on Sunday.  After starting the year 0-8, the Bucs have now won four of their last five games.  Bucs coach Greg Schiano will try to keep the momentum going this week at home against a San Francisco team that appears to be hitting its stride.

New Orleans bounced back from its beatdown in Seattle and dished out its own punishment at home against Carolina.  Prior to the season, Saints linebacker Junior Galette said that the Saints wanted to dominate the NFC South.  With Sunday's win, New Orleans is now two wins away from sweeping its division slate.

Both the Panthers and Saints have dangerous "trap" games lined up this week before their Week 16 rematch.  New Orleans travels to St. Louis, where the Saints were beaten soundly during Sean Payton's last season on the sidelines in 2011, and Carolina takes on a Jekyll and Hyde Jets team in Charlotte.

Since the Bucs are a game ahead of the Falcons with three to go (Tampa plays vs. SF, at STL and at NO), Atlanta probably needs to win against Washington this week if it wants to have a chance at avoiding the cellar since the Falcons have to play San Francisco and Carolina in the final two weeks of the season.


Week 15 Injury Report

Falcons Injury Report
PlayerInjuryExpected Return Date
Mike JohnsonLegOut for Season
Bradie EwingShoulderOut for Season
Kroy BiermannAchillesOut for Season
Julio JonesFootOut for Season
Sam BakerKneeOut for Season
Thomas DeCoudConcussionTBD
Antone SmithKneeTBD, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Starting safety Thomas DeCoud left Sunday's game with a head injury, and's Vaughn McClure reports that DeCoud is now going through the league's concussion protocol. 

"He’ll have to go through a number of steps before he’ll be cleared to play, with the first one seeing the independent neurologist," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of DeCoud, via "Going through the different stages that they have in place."

In addition to DeCoud, reserve running back Antone Smith left Sunday's game with a knee injury, but Smith stated that the team does not believe the injury is serious.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and running back Steven Jackson each sustained injuries against Green Bay game, but both players returned and finished the game.

DeCoud and Smith aside, this is probably as healthy as the Falcons have been all year.  Still, Julio Jones' absence continues to be evident when you watch this offense try to create big plays.


Biggest Question Facing the Falcons This Week 

Both the Redskins and Falcons were division winners last season, but now they find themselves tied for the for the worst record in the NFC.  Thus, the biggest question facing the Falcons this week is will have the Falcons have worst record in the NFC after Sunday? 

Three of Atlanta's most embarrassing losses this season have resulted in the Falcons having the dubious honor of being the "first" for their opponent. 

The Jets won their first (and only) road game of the season in Atlanta, the Buccaneers scored more than 30 points for the first time this season when they hosted the Falcons last month and with their win over the Falcons on Sunday, the Packers notched their first win since Aaron Rodgers went down with his injury.

The Redskins are winless on the road against NFC opponents this season.  Will they be the next team to experience a "first" against the Falcons when they head to Georgia Dome this week?

Given the drama that may be unfolding in Washington, a loss to the Redskins at home could be the most embarrassing loss of the season for the Falcons. 



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