In need of a break, the Atlanta Falcons just got two

A 4-4 team facing the NFL's second-toughest remaining schedule – this according to – could use a break. On Thursday, the Atlanta Falcons got two.

First, Ezekiel Elliott’s latest legal maneuver – we use the word “latest” advisedly because, where the NFL is concerned, there’s always another legal maneuver coming – was denied. His oft-delayed suspension is set to begin Sunday. Elliott’s team is scheduled to play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

Second, Richard Sherman tore his Achilles in one of those hugely popular Thursday nighters and is lost for the duration. The Falcons are scheduled to play Sherman’s team two Mondays from now.

Dallas here and Seattle there figured to be hairbreadth games. The presumed absence of Elliott and the assured absence of Sherman – here I assert my rank as Capt. Obvious – will not hurt the Falcons’ chances. Doesn’t mean they’ll win both, or either. Does mean they’ll face two good teams with each missing one of its best players.

The Falcons cannot lose these next two games and hope to make the playoffs. They'd be 4-6, and that'd be that. As is, Football Outsiders assigns a 3.5 percent chance of winning the NFC South and a 15.1 percent chance of qualifying for postseason. This is what home losses to Buffalo and Miami can do.

The Falcons insist they’re still a good team themselves, recent evidence to the contrary. They’ve arrived at that place where the rubber meets the road. If they can’t gain a split with the Cowboys and Seahawks, they can spend the final six weeks preparing for the draft. If they go 2-0, they’ll have a fighting chance of playing beyond December. The odds of going 2-0 just got better.

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