When I wrote earlier this week about how little respect the Falcons and Texans get compared to a team like the Broncos get, I got a lot of feedback in both directions. Some, even Broncos fans, agreed with me. While others questioned my objective approach to teams I am in support of.
That’s a fair question, no doubt. If I can pick apart something like strength of schedule and style points in a team that I don’t follow daily, could I do it with a team I do follow day in and day out? Well, that’s precisely what I’m going to do here.
With last night’s victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons improved to an NFL best 11-1 record. Simply looking at that, you’d assume they were the best team in the league, right? Never, since I’ve began following the NFL with the sick obsession I have now, have I seen a team with that kind of start get as much disrespect as the Falcons are getting right now. But I’m here to explain why that is, and maybe even agree with the criticism.
As I stated in my Broncos article, I believe in the Bill Parcells “You are what your record says you are” mantra, but there are still things you can tell about a team when you follow their every move as I do Atlanta’s. At the end of the day, there is no style points in the NFL. You can win by forty or you can win by one and it still only counts as one win. But, on the flip side, it does still count as a win. There are no moral victories and there is no “but they almost lost!.”
However, when a team lives as dangerously close as Atlanta has this season, it is certainly a red flag. I’m not gong to knee jerk about either game against the Saints this season, as that rivalry is always going to result in close contests. But when seven of those eleven victories have been by less than a touchdown, it isn’t just the case of winning close games, but a case of that you could very easily be staring at reverse results should a call or a bounce not went your way.
However, I don’t like to play hypotheticals and still think a win is a win. And consistently proving that you can win those close games is huge with the NFL postseason right around the corner. Some of the tough playoff games in this league come down to the wire and one tough play. If this team shows any indication of anything, it is the character to find ways to win close games. That is an attribute that is invaluable come January.
Now, onto my criticisms of an 11-1 ball club. Atlanta proved me wrong last night when I said that they couldn’t win a game against the Saints solely on their defense. They played out of their minds last night with their best secondary player on the sideline going up against one of the quarterback greats in all of the NFL. They picked off Drew Brees six times last night (one was called back for a penalty) and broke his consecutive games with a touchdown streak. For all of us predicting a shoot out, it was an interesting twist.
But the inconsistencies with the offense is something that could seriously doom this squad if a tough defense like San Francisco or New York come through the Georgia Dome in Jaunuary. After generating MVP talk for Matt Ryan, he has looked less than mediocre two of the past three weeks. He’s still on pace to throw for 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, but he’s also getting very bad with the interceptions.
For Atlanta to make it through the conference come January, there are plenty of things that need to be fixed. If the defense can play at that level every week, it would take the burden off of the offense to produce. However, with all of the weapons that they have on offense, there is no excuse to go entire quarters without even getting a first down like last night. The inconsistent offense could be what keeps this team wondering how they squandered another number one seed if they can’t improve.
Again, this may seem like nitpicking against a team thats only loss this season came against a heated division rival, on the road and by just four points in a game they probably should have won. But at the moment, I’m getting the same feeling about this team I had about the 2010 team that looked great all season, then got torched by the Packers in the postseason.
Filed under: Atlanta Falcons