The Atlanta Falcons are 11-1, have already clinched the NFC South and have the ability—with some help—to lock up the NFC’s No. 1 seed in Week 14. But the Falcons still aren’t considered one of the NFL’s elite teams.
Maybe they shouldn’t be.
My colleague Matt Miller here at Bleacher Report ranks the Falcons fifth with only the 49ers ahead of them in the NFC.
Let’s face it, even though the Falcons got a big rivalry win in Week 13 over the New Orleans Saints, their three wins prior to that 10-point victory were by a total of 11 points against a 3-4 Dallas Cowboys team, a 4-5 Arizona Cardinals team and the 6-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Good teams win, no matter what. But shouldn’t teams that are elite thump teams like the Cardinals?
Until Atlanta puts a good hurting on a respectable team, or rattles off a few double-digit wins, the Falcons won’t rise too much higher in the power polls.
Atlanta’s secondary is a bit banged up at the moment. Neither strong safety William Moore (hamstring) nor cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) practiced Wednesday or Thursday. Moore picked off two passes in Week 13’s win over New Orleans, but finished the game. Samuel re-injured his shoulder early in the first quarter, never to return.
Defensive tackle Peria Jerry (quadricep) and running back Michael Turner (elbow) have been limited both days this week.
After William Moore led the Falcons with 11 tackles against the Saints and picked off two of Drew Brees’ passes, he was given the award of NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Moore leads the Falcons with 105 tackles this season and is second to free safety Thomas DeCoud with four interceptions. He’s been a little more quiet than usual after starting the season with back-to-back interceptions in Weeks 1 and 2, but sparked a huge rivalry win over the Saints in Week 13.
Quarterback Matt Ryan elicited MVP talk during the first half of the season, but that conversation is no more.
Ryan was 18-for-33 against the Saints and threw for just 165 yards, by far his lowest output of the season. Over the last three weeks he’s thrown six interceptions and just two touchdowns and his completion rate has been well below his season average.
The Falcons have won all three of these games, and Ryan isn’t worried that he’s slumping, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Falcons have four games left on the schedule and two may provide a few answers about the aspects of Atlanta’s success in postseason play.
Atlanta will host the New York Giants in Week 15 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17. If the Falcons can handily put down these two teams, the general feeling around Falcons Nation will be higher entering the playoffs.
That good momentum is truly needed, too. Atlanta has the fantastic record and it has the weaponry on paper. Can this team put everything together over the last quarter of the season and finally win a playoff game in the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith era?