The Atlanta Falcons, who were 10 yards from a Super Bowl last January, entered the 2013 season as one of the favorites in the NFC, but at 1-4, with four end-of-game losses, they've put themselves in a deep hole. It's one I am not sure they can climb out of now.
Injuries have hurt this team, and now comes word Tuesday that receiver Julio Jones is likely out for the season with a foot injury. If that's that case, the Falcons will have lost their best offensive weapon and key to their passing game after losing several other key players already for the year, including tackles Mike Johnson and defensive end Kroy Biermann. Running back Steven Jackson has played one game, and linebcker Sean Weatherspoon, their best defensive player, who is on IR with a chance to return, played in two.
What looked to be a sure playoff team, and potential Super Bowl team, now looks to be in deep, deep trouble. They head to their bye four games behind the Saints in the NFC South and with little hope of turning it around now.
The Falcons have made some personnel missteps along the way. They didn't do a good job of fortifying their offensive line, and that has showed up all season long. Two second-year players, center Peter Konz and left tackle Lamar Holmes, have been disappointments. They can't run it at all, ranking 25th in the league
And the inability to make plays in the red zone has crippled this team, although Roddy White's injury has played a role there. He's played through it, but clearly hasn't been the same player. He also left Monday night's loss to the Jets late with hamstring injury.
After going to the playoffs in four of their first five seasons, it appears that coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan will be sitting out the postseason party this time around, barring an amazing turnaround.
There will be some who will put general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Smith on the hot seat. It's way too early for that. Injuries have played a big role here. That gives them this year as a pass. Don't forget they were the No. 1 seed last season in the NFC Playoffs.
But you can bet they will be on notice in 2014. Owner Arthur Blank does not seem to be a patient man.