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Will Mike Smith survive the season, what's up with Matt Ryan and more

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We talked to Dave Choate of The Falcoholic for the inside scoop on Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Is Mike Smith still going to be your head coach in 2015? What about Thomas Dimitroff?

Mike Smith is gone. Realistically, he would have to win at least seven of the team's final eight games and make some noise in the playoffs to convince owner Arthur Blank he's worth keeping around. I consider those chances remote, so Smith will be out the door after seven seasons, bringing a winning record and an NFC Conference Championship appearance to Atlanta, but leaving on a sour note. Rumors are that Blank intends to pursue a big name coach, so we'll see who he winds up bringing in.

Dimitroff is more of a coin flip. If Smith goes he may be able to point to his draft successes and get another opportunity, but he's culpable for the real dearth of talent at some spots on the roster, and could be out the door if Blank is seeking a fresh start or hires a strong-willed coach who wants personnel control. Gonna be quite an interesting offseason, to say the least.

Usually when teams suck it means their quarterbacks suck. But as far as I can tell, Matt Ryan has been playing lights out this season -- despite a useless offensive line, a struggling running game and no tight end. What in the world is happening in Atlanta that you're still losing every single week?

2) Matt Ryan's been about as good as usual, his brain-dead interception against the Lions and a handful of lousy decisions aside. Between an injured offensive line, scads of drops from his receivers and play-calling that has been uninspired at times, he's working against a lot. He also has been sacked, on average, in less time than any other quarterback in the league this season. Add it all together and you get a season that looks a little better than last year, when Ryan was facing many of the same issues.

I know some people take issue with the "excuses" made for Ryan, but I think it's fair to say those have all been major factors. I don't consider Ryan a top five QB in the NFL, but he's right outside that, and he's getting killed by what's around him.

Why is Antone Smith not getting more carries? He seems to be running in long touchdowns every game, but only has 31 touchdowns touches on the season.

I love the 31 touchdowns typo in your original question, because it feels like that to me, too.

Antone Smith has definitely earned more touches. The coaching staff is, I think, wary of overexposing him, and they don't view him as the kind of guy who is going to increase in effectiveness with more carries. That's all well and good, but Smith has done most of his damage through the air, where he's capable of taking a short pass, getting through first contact and turning on the jets for long touchdowns. It's inexcusable, given the struggles the passing game has gone through, that they can't work him in more. I do suspect that they don't view Smith as reliable in pass protection, either, though his Pro Football Focus grades thus far in 2014 don't bear that out.

Free Antone.

What is going on with the NFC South? Why does everyone suck so much? Why are we suddenly the 2010 NFC West?

There's a lot to unpack here. The Falcons are paying for years of not sinking assets into the pass rush and LB corps, as well as injuries and bad habits from the coaching staff and offense. The Saints were going to regress a bit defensively from last year and Drew Brees isn't getting younger, which hurts them. The Panthers have no offensive line, a makeshift wide receiver corps and a defense with real weak spots. You guys are a tire fire, no offense intended.

It feels to me like the huge run of success in the division over the last decade or so lulled everyone into a little bit of a false sense of security. We knew the Panthers and Saints might pull back a bit and the Falcons and Buccaneers were unlikely to be great this year, but this is kind of ridiculous. Have to hope 2015's better.

Care to predict the game?

I've got a Falcons win. Both teams are playing some lousy football, but the Falcons do well coming off of byes, they're getting Jonathan Babineaux, Jake Matthews, Antone Smith and Prince Shembo some much-needed rest ahead of the game and they're literally coaching for their jobs at this point. I think that'll be enough to lead to an ugly 24-17 win, when all is said and done.

Bonus: Is this season as depressing for you as it is for me?

Bonus: Yes. Oh lord, yes.

Bonus 2: What's up with Geraldo Boldewijn?

Bonus 2: Unsure. The team hasn't made any move to re-sign him, but neither has any other team. Either he's less highly-regarded than I might have been inclined to think or he isn't fully past his injury yet. I hope to see him land somewhere soon.