Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Headed into Week 16

Al BruceContributor IDecember 18, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15:  Steven Jackson #39 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates a touchdown against the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on December 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2013 season is winding down for the Atlanta Falcons, and the team will face two 10-4 teams in its last two games. 

The fun begins on Monday night with a "rematch" (I use the term loosely) of the 2013 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco against the 49ers

Here's our weekly look at the updated NFC South standings, Atlanta's injury report and the biggest question facing the Falcons this week headed into Monday night's Week 16 contest.

 

NFC South Standings

NFC South Standings
TeamRecordvs. NFC Southvs. NFCWeek 16
New Orleans Saints10-44-08-2at Panthers
Carolina Panthers10-43-17-3vs. Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4-101-42-8at Rams
Atlanta Falcons4-101-43-7at 49ers
NFL.com

The Falcons have two games left to play their way out of last place in the division, but both of those games will come against playoff contenders who will need to win to improve or maintain their own positioning.  If Tampa Bay wins in St. Louis on Sunday, Atlanta will virtually be assured of a last-place finish in the NFC South for the first time since 2007.

The biggest game within the division this week will take place in Charlotte when the Panthers host the Saints in a game that will almost certainly (Panthers would still need to beat the Falcons in Week 17 to clinch the division) determine who's going to win the NFC South.

If New Orleans loses to the Panthers on Sunday, it would be the team's fifth loss in 10 games since starting off the season 5-0.

 

Falcons Injury Report

Atlanta Falcons Early Week 16 Injury Report
PlayerInjuryWeek 16 Status
Mike JohnsonLegInjured Reserve
Bradie EwingShoulderInjured Reserve
Julio JonesFootInjured Reserve
Kroy BiermannAchillesInjured Reserve
Sam BakerKneeInjured Reserve
Thomas DeCoudConcussionTBD
Sean WeatherspoonKneeTBD
Antone SmithKneeTBD
AtlantaFalcons.com, NFL.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Safety Thomas DeCoud missed last week's game against Washington with a concussion, but D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that DeCoud is expected to return to practice today.  According to Ledbetter, we can also expect to see linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on the practice field three days after he left Sunday's game with a knee injury.

Antone Smith missed the Washington game after injuring his knee against Green Bay, and we should get more information regarding his status for Monday night's game in the coming days.

 

Biggest Question Facing the Falcons This Week

The biggest question facing the Falcons this week is whether the team can put together a respectable performance on national television against the 49ers on Monday night.  Only four of Atlanta's 10 losses this season have been by double digits, but three of those four losses came on the road.

Monday's game appears to be ripe for another blowout win by an Atlanta opponent since emotions will be riding high in San Francisco as the 49ers play what will likely be the final game at Candlestick Park.

The Falcons have been a major disappointment this year, but an embarrassing lopsided defeat this week on Monday Night Football could take the Falcons back to depths we last saw in 2003 when Falcons owner Arthur Blank felt compelled to write an apology letter to the head of ABC Sports following his team's 36-0 Monday night loss to the Rams.

It's unreasonable to expect this Falcons team to go out West and pull off a win, but as professionals they ought to be able to play a competitive game in what's probably going to be tight end Tony Gonzalez's final prime-time appearance.