Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick are all names that dominate the “top coach” conversation, but in the last four years Smith has been nearly as successful.
Since Smith has been a head coach, only the Baltimore Ravens have made more playoff appearances. In that same time, the Falcons, Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Saints and Packers have all reached the playoffs three times.
Almost all of these teams have arguably top-ten coaches.
All of the Falcons’ playoff runs have been earned with big winning streaks late in the season. In 2012, success has come early to Atlanta.
Through the first eight games of the season, the Falcons were undefeated. Their one loss came when they could not score from the 2-yard line late in the game to win.
Despite the prowess of the Atlanta pass attack, the Falcons have had to fight for wins this season. Through the first nine games, the Falcons are 5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less. It is those games where decision-making on the field and the sidelines is pivotal.
Their most convincing wins have come against Denver, Philadelphia and Dallas, all of whom are in the playoff picture currently. In their final seven games, the Falcons face division opponents four times and have three games against teams with winning records.
These games should test Smith and the Falcons, but they will just as likely reaffirm their regular-season dominance. If they stay hot, this could be the year that Smith solidifies his place in the top coaching conversation with a Super Bowl win.