Watch: It’s Rare, but There is a Chance for the Falcons to Recover from 1-5
Matt Ryan nearly pulled it off last week against the Arizona Cardinals. “Matty Ice”, in the career top 10 for fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives, brought the Falcons all the way back from a 17-point deficit. The Falcons came within a missed extra point of being 2-4 heading into their upcoming game against the Los Angeles Rams. Playoffs? Improbable, but stranger things have happened.
Instead, you could feel the life drain from Falcons fans as Matt Bryant’s kick slowly sailed outside the left upright. The Falcons were going to limp home with a 1-5 record and dashed playoff hopes after that soul-sucking loss to the Cardinals. Except, those playoff hopes aren’t necessarily dashed yet. They’re hanging on for dear life off the edge of a cliff, but they’re not dead.
If you take a look at the Team Record Finder at pro-football-reference.com, you’ll find that 227 teams, this season’s Falcons among them, have started a season 1-5. Three of those teams fought their way through to the playoffs. To quote Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Yes, Falcons fans, it’s slight but it’s there.
Just last season, the Indianapolis Colts opened with a 1-5 record. Suddenly their defense tightened up, Andrew Luck caught fire and they finished 10-6. They even won their Wild Card game before getting bounced by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round.
The Chiefs accomplished the feat themselves in 2015. They ran off a 10-game win streak after their mediocre start to squeeze into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Prior to that, you have to stretch all the way back to the 1970 season.
In the first season after the AFL and NFL merger, the Cincinnati Bengals won their opening game, then dropped six-straight. Paul Brown switched quarterbacks from Sam Wyche to Virgil Carter and the Bengals finished the season on a seven-game tear to finish 8-6 and win the brand-new AFC Central Division. They are still the only team to open with a 1-6 record and make a postseason appearance.
To be the fourth team to accomplish a playoff run after opening a season 1-5, the Falcons have to face the defending NFC Champion Rams and the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks before their bye week. The advantage to the team is those are both home games.
The Falcons have no choice but to rise-up and come out of those games with wins. If they do, there is a big advantage waiting for them after the bye week. The Falcons have yet to face a division opponent this season. They may be settled into last place in the NFC South but six of their final eight games are against division rivals.
According to NFL history, 1.3 percent of teams that have started 1-5 have recovered to make the playoffs. Still, that also means that there is still a chance.