Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17

Al BruceContributor IDecember 26, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Tony Gonzalez #88 of the Atlanta Falcons catches a two yard touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 34-24. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons' 2013 season spiraled out of control quickly after the team's Week 1 loss in New Orleans, and the team definitely isn't where it expected to be headed into Week 17 of this campaign.

After putting together an admirable showing against San Francisco on Monday night, the Falcons return home to the Georgia Dome to close out the season against a Carolina Panthers team that will be seeking to win its first division title since 2008.

Let's get ready for Sunday's season finale by taking our weekly glimpse at the updated NFC South standings, Atlanta's injury report and the biggest question facing the Falcons this week.


NFC South Standings

NFC South Standings
TeamRecordvs. NFC Southvs. NFCWeek 17 Opponent
Carolina Panthers11-44-18-3at Falcons
New Orleans Saints10-54-18-3vs. Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons4-111-43-8vs. Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4-111-42-9at Saints

The Week 17 playoff scenarios in the NFC South are pretty simple.  The Carolina Panthers can clinch the division championship and a first-round bye with a win over the Falcons on Sunday.  If the Falcons are able to pull off an upset, the New Orleans Saints could win their second division title in three years by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late Sunday afternoon.  Whether they have a shot at the division or not, the Saints need to beat the Bucs or have San Francisco beat Arizona in order to clinch a playoff spot.

ESPN's Pat Yasinskas reported that Bucs coach Greg Schiano wants his team to treat its matchup against the Saints like a playoff game.  It's unlikely that many Falcons fans want Atlanta to take that kind of attitude into Sunday's game against Carolina since an Atlanta victory could hand the division to the Saints. 

Per, the Falcons are currently slotted to pick sixth in the draft.  Regardless of what happens on Sunday, they will pick no lower than eighth.


Atlanta Falcons Injury Report

Week 17 Injury Report
PlayerInjuryWeek 17 Status
Corey PetersAchillesInjured Reserve
Zeke MottaNeckInjured Reserve
Jacquizz RodgersConcussionTBD
Sean WeatherspoonKneeTBD
Darius JohnsonAnkleTBD
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, and

Defensive tackle Corey Peters caught a tough break this week because his season-ending Achilles injury happened just as he's primed to enter free agency.  I wouldn't be shocked if the Falcons still opt to bring him back with a reasonable long-term deal based off of his production this year.

Rookie safety Zeke Motta has also been placed on injured reserve with a neck injury, and backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers sounds like he's in jeopardy of missing this week's contest with a concussion.  If Rodgers can't go, perhaps Antone Smith can get a longer look this week.


Biggest Question Facing the Falcons This Week 

The biggest question facing the Falcons this week is whether they can put together the kind of inspired effort they had against the 49ers and send Tony Gonzalez off into retirement with a victory.

Even though Atlanta didn't have a playoff berth on the line against San Francisco, the team was motivated by the prime-time lights and the opportunity to get revenge against the squad that ended its playoff run a year ago.

Will the opportunity to spoil Carolina's division title hopes provide enough motivation this week, or will we get a performance that's more consistent with what we've seen all year from this disappointing Atlanta team?