Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan acted slightly amused when a reporter told him after Sunday's loss to the 49ers that the Falcons still had a slim chance to make the playoffs according to the analytics.
The Falcons had just been thoroughly dominated as their won-loss record dropped to 6-8.
"A chance ... so you're saying there's a chance?" Ryan answered back. "Isn't that the old movie line, or whatever?
"I've seen strange things happen in this league. We've got to hold up our end of the bargain.
"That starts this week."
View photos of the starters for the Atlanta Falcons.
The opponent "this week" is the Detroit Lions, who are coming off a 30-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals that was as inspiring for them at this point of their rebuilding season as the 31-13 loss to the 49ers was deflating for the Falcons.
After Sunday against the Lions the Falcons play at Buffalo and close out the season at home against the Saints. A 3-0 finish that might get them a wild card berth is possible but not likely.
It has been a strange season for the Falcons under first-year head coach Arthur Smith.
They have improved where it counts most – a 6-8 won-loss record compared to 4-12 last year under Dan Quinn, who was let go early in the season and replaced by Raheem Morris on an interim basis.
Offense: Ryan has been solid in his 14th season with the Falcons, all as the starter. He ranks 11th in the league with 3,340 yards passing and tied for 15th with 18 TD passes against 11 interceptions.
Ryan has been sacked 29 times. That's an improvement over the previous three seasons, when he was sacked 42, 48 and 41 times from 2018-20.
However, the Falcons have had issues off and on with the offensive line. That shows up prominently in the red zone, where they went 1-for-5 in scoring touchdowns against the 49ers.
Overall offensively, the Falcons are averaging 313.4 yards and 18.4 points per game compared to 368.4 yards and 24.8 points per game a year ago.
Cordarrelle Patterson, known best in his career for his premier return skills, has provided a balanced dual threat with 565 yards rushing and five TDs, and 524 receiving and five TDs.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who was blossoming into star status going into his fourth season, played only five games. He took a break from football, saying in a statement that he had to concentrate on his mental wellbeing.
Draft star: Tight end Kyle Pitts, regarded by many as the top prospect in the 2021 draft, has shown signs of living up to that billing.
Blessed with rare athleticism for his size – 6-6, 248 pounds – Pitts has 58 catches for 847 yards and an average of 14.7 yards per catch.
Defense: The Falcons are last in the league with 16 sacks. That's five fewer than the three teams tied for next to last with 21. The Lions are one of those three.
That's also one fewer than league leader T.J. Watt of the Steelers has on his own.
Dante Fowler leads the Falcons with 4.5 sacks. Three other players have two.
Lack of pressure on the quarterback is one reason the Falcons rank 31st with 27.4 points allowed per game, 26th in yards allowed per game (366.6) and 24th with 246.6 passing yards allowed per game.