Editor’s note: As we head into Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons, we welcome editor-in-chief Dave Choate of The Falcoholic — our sister SB Nation site covering the Falcons — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1) Are the Falcons cursed?
Yes. Next question.
I guess the reality is that the Falcons are cursed by incompetence and poor luck, rather than dark magic. They have rarely (if ever) had a great defense at the same time as a great offense, and never with a great coaching staff and a great front office supporting them. There’s always at least one major weakness, and for what seems like decades now, the Falcons have been unable to close out games because of a lack of a quality pass rush, the lack of a great ground game, or just the lack of anything resembling a good football team. You can argue a bounce here or there came from some Cursed God of Falcons Football, but I’m not willing to blame the supernatural when the naturally terrible is right within reach.
2) Should Matt Ryan be the Falcons quarterback in 2021?
Yes, for several reasons.
The first is just cost, as trading him or cutting him would be the same or worse than actually having him on the roster in terms of cap impact, with none of the benefits of having a proven veteran quarterback available. Ryan has also consistently proven, when the game plan is somewhat crisp and he’s not getting killed thanks to the lack of a run game, that he’s still plenty capable of running a quality offense, which he’ll hopefully have with a new coaching staff in 2021. I don’t think he’s washed up yet.
That said, should the team take the opportunity to snag a Trey Lance or Zach Wilson high — or even a Kyle Trask or Mac Jones later on — in the hopes that they’ll be ready to replace Ryan in 2022 or 2023? Yeah, absolutely — given that you don’t pick this early that often and this class has plenty of quarterback talent.
3) Will the Falcons make a run at hiring a certain Chiefs coordinator as their next head coach?
I’d be surprised if Eric Bieniemy is not high on their list of potential candidates.
I often hear the knock that he hasn’t called offensive plays and/or that he did regrettable things in college and early in his NFL career, and I’d feel best if the team addressed that directly as part of an interview. I do think Bieniemy’s value as a leader, a key piece of the offensive planning and as a game day motivator (all of which I’m admittedly getting from an ecosystem of Chiefs-centric outlets, including Arrowhead Pride) will make him attractive to a Falcons team that no longer can take a borderline great offense for granted — and desperately needs a fresh approach.
With former Texans general manager Rick Smith looming as the team’s top candidate, per reports, it’s really just a question of what kind of offers Bieniemy is looking at and what Smith thinks of him. I’d be stunned if he isn’t on the team’s list.
4) What needs to happen for the Falcons to win at Arrowhead?
A miracle? I’m not really joking.
For the Falcons to beat the Chiefs, they would need to be better than they were against the Buccaneers just a week ago offensively, which was already the high-water mark of the last several weeks. They will need a moribund ground game to suddenly (and drastically) improve so they aren’t burning downs and giving the Chiefs the ball back swiftly. They will need a defense that has been leaking a bit after a very strong run to re-discover its form and keep the pass rush humming late into the game — something that hasn’t been happening very often lately. They might have to do all this without Julio Jones and center Alex Mack, who would be replaced by heir apparent/unproven rookie Matt Hennessy.
It depends on a confluence of factors that individually seem possible, but on the whole seem virtually impossible. The Falcons beat the undefeated, Super Bowl-bound Panthers a few years back and the Super Bowl-bound 49ers in 2019, so there is a precedent for a down-and-out team stunning one of the best teams in the league, but this doesn’t feel real likely.
5) How does this game play out?
I’ll predict the Falcons typically do extremely well in the first half, which will be enough to keep the game somewhat close. I’m predicting 34-21 or something to that effect, and while I’ll probably go up and down on the final score, the important thing is that the Chiefs will beat the Falcons by double digits. I just can’t see another outcome.