Have the Atlanta Falcons Established Themselves as the NFL's Best Team?
CBS Sports' senior NFL blogger Will Brinson made quite the definitive statement-turned-question based on what he saw from the Falcons' prime-time victory:
Somehow the Falcons beat the Saints by 10 and still didn’t manage to scare anyone?— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) November 30, 2012
Say it with me—a win is a win is a win.
Never has that football adage rung more truly than this season, when parity (and to some, mediocrity) has been the league's central theme.
However, Brinson could be on to something, no?
Lost in Drew Brees' stunningly awful five-interception effort, a disastrous showing that marked the end of his remarkable touchdown pass streak, was a futile performance put on by Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons passing game.
Coming into the game, Ryan's aerial attack was one of the premier attacks in football.
Facing a Saints secondary near the bottom of the league in all statistical categories, the Falcons appeared to have a distinct advantage with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
At game's end, Ryan had 165 yards passing with one touchdown.
Certainly, completion percentages and passing yards aren't necessarily integral in the win-loss column, and every victory doesn't have to come via a 300-yard passing game from Ryan.
But the passing game is the Falcons' staple.
It's what has made them the team they are today.
Sure, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers—especially Turner—deserve credit for their 126-yard outburst on the ground.
However, can Atlanta rely on its running back duo to tote the rock for 5.5 yards per carry against the better teams in the NFC?
Remember, no team allowed more yards per carry than the Saints heading into their second battle with the Falcons.
Now, defensively, Mike Nolan's unit really flexed its muscles.
Brees hasn't had the most prolific season of his career, but five interceptions are five interceptions, and the amount of pressure applied to the iconic quarterback cannot be ignored.
Nine interceptions in three games against Brees and Peyton Manning is a feat on which the Falcons can hang their hats.
Which team is the best in the NFL?
Beating the rival Saints, a team that's gone 4-1 against the Falcons since 2010, is a fine accomplishment for Atlanta—there's no doubting that.
But this year's New Orleans squadron isn't the 2009 team that won the Super Bowl or the group that went 13-3 last season.
Traditionally, an 11-1 team that's undefeated at home would largely be considered the best team in football.
After their last month of play, can we really say the Falcons are a true juggernaut?
But, actually, with the way mediocrity has infiltrated the NFL this season, Atlanta may just be the cream of a watered-down crop.
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