By TPR Staff

Out of all of the teams in the playoffs currently, none gets more disrespect that the Atlanta Falcons. Sporting the league’s best record and being undefeated at home has done little to impress the national pundits who clamor for the Packers, Niners and even Redskins more than Atlanta.

A close loss to division rival New Orleans and one really bad showing in Carolina are the only black eye they have on their 13-2 record. However, plenty of close games against “weaker” competition have raised many red flags and created more than a few skeptics on the Falcons.

Really, until they do something in the playoffs, that probably won’t change. I’m of the opinion that what you’re doing right now is far more important than what you haven’t done in years prior. And I’m sure Mike Smith has his club thinking the same thing; people can disrespect you, but if you’re the team smiling at the podium after every game each week, who cares what they say?

Earlier in the season I predicted the loss of offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey would be “addition by subtraction.” At least for quarterback Matt Ryan, that certainly seems to be the case. Mularkey was a running guy and liked to use a stud receiver like Julio Jones as a decoy too much. Now, they’re letting Ryan air the ball out to his playmakers, and there are quite a few on that offense.

After beating down the defending champs two weeks ago and likely ending their season, some have piped down about how the Falcons are just a “pushover” team that’ll blow another top seed. With said top seed locked up, it ensures that once again the Super Bowl goes through the Georgia Dome where the Falcons are as good as any home team in the league. Matt Ryan has only lost there 4 times in his entire career.

So what can keep the Falcons from getting to the Super Bowl? It all begins and ends with Matt Ryan. He started off the season on an MVP tear and can still pick apart defenses sometimes. But the offense has a tendency to get mundane and out of sync at times and for long stretches. There have been times this year where they’ve nearly went a full half without even gaining a first down. Things like that can’t happen in the postseason with some of the juggernaut offenses they’ll be facing.

In 2010, Green Bay gave the Falcons an embarrassment they’ll never forget in a thrashing at the Georgia Dome. Since then, no one has taken the club seriously as an NFC threat. It’s difficult to call a club with a 13-2 record “Jekyll and Hyde,” but it’s true. They can move the ball and scorch earth on offense one week and then fall short on first and goal on the one every time.

It’s on their defense that they’ll need some big time play to balance things out. The potential of facing the Packers again or the Seahawks, two very explosive offenses, that Atlanta needs to get some stops. With an inconsistent offense, they can’t afford to get into a shoot out with the likes of those clubs or even San Francisco with their stout defense.

I picked Atlanta to get to the NFC title game and fall to the Packers in my preseason picks, but I also predicted that game would be held at Lambeau on The Frozen Tundra. It’s all about match ups in the postseason and I’m not so sure locale will help in that meeting, as Green Bay is a horrible match up for the Atlanta defense. A lot will have to go right for them to finally exorcise that demon.

This is man up time for Matt Ryan. He has many detractors because he’s never been able to get things done in the playoffs. Like Peyton Manning, he seems to need that first one to eventually break through in January. Then he might get a little more slack than he does right now. But no one can change that but him. Could this be the year? I would hope so, or this season will be an ever bigger disappointment than 2010.

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