Low flying Falcons
Why doesn't any think the Atlanta Falcons are a Super Bowl team? With each passing week the Falcons have been piling up wins yet Atlanta's success has been met with growing skepticism.
I'm certain much, if not all, of the skepticism stems from Atlanta's recent postseason flops. Everyone is quick to point out that the Falcons had the best record in the NFC in 2010 and were ripped apart by the Packers in the divisional round. But isn't there an argument that they better now? The Falcons are deeper at running back and wide receiver. Matt Ryan has been MVP-ish for most of the season and his numbers across the board are better than they were two years ago. Even when he throws five interceptions, like he did against Arizona, the Falcons can still win. They can overcome mistakes. While Atlanta hasn't been blowing teams away they've proven they can win close games and they can win in come-from-behind fashion. Heck, they even have history on their side.
There's no doubt the Falcons have to prove they can win in January. Success in January is often preceded by success in big time regular season games. Atlanta faces New Orleans tonight in one of two late regular season tests, the other being a Week 15 matchup against the Giants. If the Falcons win both not only will they likely nail down the top seed in the NFC again but surely by then they'll have proven they can also win in pressure situations.
At the very least with a win tonight the Falcons can start making postseason plans. Atlanta clinches a playoff birth with a win and a Seattle loss or tie and the Falcons clinch the division with a win and a Tampa Bay loss or tie.
Meanwhile for New Orleans this could be the end of the line. At 5-6 the margin or error to make the playoffs is razor thin. The schedule doesn't get much easier as the Saints play the Giants, Buccaneers and Cowboys in consecutive weeks. Their 3-4 conference record doesn't bode well either especially considering the Saints are done playing AFC teams. A loss effectively ends their postseason chances.