The Atlanta Falcons are the Super Bowl contender nobody buys into
Few outside of ‘Falcons Nation’ have bought into the Atlanta Falcons are Super Bowl LI contenders.
Why aren’t the Atlanta Falcons being hyped for a Super Bowl run like the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers are? The Falcons are 10-5, NFC South Champions, and in position to clinch of a first round playoff bye. They’re also 3-0 over the last few weeks and have outscored opponents 116-43.
No team in the NFC has been more dominant since Week 14 than the Atlanta Falcons. The 1-seed Cowboys lost to the Giants in Week 15 and played tight games against the Vikings and Buccaneers. 3-seed Seattle is trending downward after Saturday’s loss to Arizona. The Packers have emerged as an NFC favorite, but allowed over 420 yards to a really bad Minnesota offense.
What am I missing here?
The makings of a champion
The Falcons don’t have the best record but the best record isn’t what wins the Super Bowl. In most years, the NFL’s champion is the team to get “hot” at the right time. Atlanta is the hottest team in pro football right now and finds new ways to win each week. The Falcons beat the Rams with turnovers. A week later they demolished San Francisco with a ground attack. On Saturday, a combination of stingy defense and offensive efficiency put the Panthers back into the NFC South cellar.
The Falcons’ resume has “Super Bowl contender’ written all over it. Matt Ryan is having an MVP-season while leading an offense that ranks among the top of the NFL. Atlanta’s passing game remains extremely potent and without having to rely so much on Julio Jones to make big plays. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for the NFL’s seventh-ranked rushing offense. A litany of different Falcons have scored touchdowns this season.
I could go on and on with how great the offense is.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons’ defense hasn’t been responsible for a loss since Week 11 at Philadelphia. Atlanta has had to rely on several young players to contribute all season and its starting to pay off. They started clunky, have struggled at times, but have come together as of late. The Falcons haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 and only Jared Goff threw for over 200 yards in their last three games. Those watching Saturday witnessed the Falcons’ secondary looking every bit as sharp as they’ll need to be in the playoffs.
This year is very different
The Atlanta Falcons played the NFL’s toughest schedule and ripped off 10 wins. They’ve gone 6-2 on the road this year and have dealt with more than enough injuries to key personnel. The Falcons have actually played better since the injury bug struck. We’ve witnessed more players step up to make big plays in the absences of key starters.
There was a time this season when Falcons’ fans were waiting for that late-regular season collapse. It hasn’t come, nor will it. We are witnessing arguably the best team in franchise history. The 2016 Atlanta Falcons are extremely accomplished but not without a chip on the shoulder they didn’t have in 2012. And speaking of 2012, the soul-crushing defeat in the NFC Championship isn’t too far removed from the player’s minds.
We can assume the lessons have been learned.
Part of me feels disrespected on behalf of the team, but I also know Atlanta wouldn’t have it any other way right now. However Week 17 shakes out, the Falcons head to the playoffs as one heck of a “dark horse” team.
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