If the Falcons leave Ford Field victorious, they will have a league-best 13-2 record, a guarantee of a bye week in the postseason, and insurance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
A 14-2 record would tie for the best in team history. The last time the Falcons finished 14-2 they defeated the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings en route to the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
What's more important, however, is not the projection of this team but the fact the Falcons have another shot on Saturday to finally earn some attention from the national media which, to this point of the long season, has indulged more in finding as many ways as possible to skew the impressive results to accommodate the traditional rhetoric that Atlanta is built to eventually fail.
While history might be on the side of the argument, the Falcons magical season has suffered in the wake of being seemingly ignored. Even after the Falcons' 34-0 thumping of the defending Super Bowl champions, the national story was immediately about the collapse of the Giants and, now that the fog has settled, how the Giants can build back to another Super Bowl run.
Essentially, predictions are beacons of destiny for New York teams, but hogwash for the Falcons.
The truth is, Atlanta will need a playoff win to earn respect from critics. But, fans and players (most recently, Falcons receiver Roddy White) have a fair gripe about how Atlanta's magical year has, to this point, been undermined.
Here are six reoccurring talking points that have undoubtedly frustrated the Atlanta faithful.
Earlier this year, critics complained that the Falcons weren't playing anyone good. It's true that they have played a pretty tame schedule. The fact that the New Orleans Saints, amid the bounty-gate scandal, have flopped definitely has helped the Falcons take back control of the NFC South.
But a lot of Atlanta's wins from earlier in the year are starting to look a bit more impressive.
The Falcons have wins over both the Manning brothers. That's right. That includes a 27-21 win over Peyton Manning, who might win this year's league MVP award, and the 10-3 Denver Broncos, the current darling of the AFC.
In fact, Atlanta now has a pretty impressive list of wins.
The Falcons won at Washington against Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, 24-17. They beat the Dallas Cowboys 19-13 in a stellar defensive performance. They beat New Orleans while picking off Drew Brees five times.
And, how can the Atlanta fans, at least, not salivate at the awesomeness of a 34-0 win over the Giants. Players said it wasn't a revenge game, considering last year's 24-2 result at the hands of the G-men, but the team and fans all felt the sweet revenge in the end.
Fine. Say Atlanta picked off Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter because the Broncos weren't "peaking."
If you say that, you have to think making his brother finish with a 40.7 quarterback rating means a peak for the men in red and black.
I'm so tired of hearing this argument. It's driving me insane.
Extending from the "weak schedule" argument is the "they don't blow out teams" argument.
Since when was the NFL the equivalent of Boise State's tenure in the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences?
"Any Given Sunday" has applied to the NFC East race all year, yet when Atlanta gets a jab from anybody there's some apparent reason to jump ship?
The only time you should expect a team to destroy an opponent in the NFL is when that team is missing its starting quarterback. Case in point.
The only game this year where the Falcons faced that predicament was when they hosted Arizona and pulled out a 23-19 win. In that game, Ryan Lindley threw 20 passes for the Cardinals, completing just nine.
Atlanta nearly lost because of five interceptions from Matt Ryan. What hasn't been a story this year is the fact Arizona has boasted one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL this year, especially when it comes to only allowing 199 passing yards per game.
By the way, the New England Patriots lost at home to that same Cardinals team.
In the end, Atlanta has lost just two games by a combined total of 14 points. That's two touchdowns for the experts out there.
As easily as we can say the Falcons could have lost a handful of games we can say the Falcons could be undefeated to this point.
In a league of "Any Given Sunday," 13-2 has to start to stand more ground.
So, here's what we learned after Sunday:
Atlanta won 34-0 against the New York Giants. Eh, big deal. Nod the head and move on to some other compelling story.
The 49ers nearly blew a 31-3 lead, won 41-34, and are suddenly the best team in the conference.
At the end of the day, the 49ers are still 10-3-1, not 12-2, and tied a St. Louis team they "should have blown out."
San Francisco is quarterbacked by a second-year guy in Colin Kaepernick, who is going to have to play on the road in the postseason if he wants to reach a Super Bowl (pending Atlanta losing and San Francisco winning the final regular season games).
Yes, you can definitely make the case, easily, that the 49ers are the league's best team. That's fine. But, that's anointing a team with an inexperienced quarterback.
That inexperience isn't in the proverbial formula for playoff success.
Yet, pundits are so quick to question Matt Ryan when he's having a record-breaking year, has the best home record of any NFL starter, and has continued to make the big plays at the end of games.
Eventually you expect that clutch quarterback to receive the stripes he's earned. While Ryan has been an afterthought, even after his 23-of-28 for 270 yards and three-touchdown performance against the Giants, Kaepernick has had a red carpet in front of his feet since he took over.
That's got to be at least a little irritating.
Atlanta thought it made statements with wins over the Broncos, Eagles, Cowboys and Saints. Each time, the story was turned around.
"Peyton isn't Peyton anymore."
"What's wrong with Michael Vick?"
"Why is Dallas shooting itself in the foot?"
"Brees had five interceptions. That game was ugly."
So, when the Falcons thumped the Giants on Sunday, fans were hoping Atlanta had finally broken the barrier and found a way into the hearts of analysts everywhere.
Atlanta was given a nod following the game.
Now the story is how tight and exciting the NFC East has become, and how the Giants could finish 10-6 and make another Super Bowl run.
If any pundit out there was told on Saturday night that the final score to the Giants-Falcons game would be 34-0, 10 out of 10 of them would tell you it was New York. Hell, even I would have slouched and given Eli and Big Blue their due.
The result on Sunday was a statement, to the league, that Atlanta is capable of being the best team in the NFL. They have the quarterback, the potency on offense, and a feisty defense.
Have those three things not been the modern-day formula for a Super Bowl team? New England? Green Bay? Hello?
You can't really cry for a change of flight here because any New York-based team is going to get the attention because of how the media functions.
Maybe it's time Atlanta-based CNN starts a sports network. Then a discussion of Atlanta's validity would see the light of day. Had the Giants won 34-0 on Sunday, that result would be headlining every sports show and hogging the first 20 minutes of them as well.
Here's where it's easiest to catch the pot calling the kettle black.
All year we heard Atlanta was winning close games it had no business almost losing. Apparently that was a pretty big problem.
But, going into the game between the 3-9 Panthers and the 11-1 Falcons, pundits were saying, "Hey! Carolina has lost a lot of really close games this year. They are at home this week. They are a talented football team. They could win this thing."
And, the truth is, anytime you have a mobile quarterback like Cam Newton you have a chance to win any Sunday. I know because I used to watch bad Falcons teams do it with a Michael Vick that didn't even know what a playbook was.
But, after Atlanta lost to the Panthers (by 10 points) the word on the street was, "Did you see Atlanta get crushed by the Panthers?"
The media had been waiting for a game where the Falcons got trounced. The Falcons did start slow in a low-key game, but outscored Carolina 20-7 in the second-half to fight back into the game. In fact, had it not been for a bogus missed call on a 2-point conversion, Atlanta would have trailed only 23-15 with most of the fourth quarter left.
Basically, this game was the first time in a long time that Matt Ryan's impressive comeback performance fell short. Instead, it was labeled as the game that showed the nation the Falcons true identity.
But, wait. Wasn't Carolina getting propped up for being a team that was losing close games? Yet Atlanta was getting discarded for doing the same thing on the winning end? And then, when the Falcons lost a good battle on the road, they were sent from the cool kids' table?
Atlanta has had a lot of really good stories accompany its campaign to this point, yet most of them have not seen the attention deserved. Here are some statistics and facts to cherish.
Matt Ryan broke a franchise record against the Giants for passing yards in a season. He has thrown for 4,202 yards with a 68.5 completion percentage and 27 touchdowns for a rating of 97.5.
Ryan is now 55-21 as a starter.
Atlanta had a duo of 1,000-yard receivers for the first time since the 1998 season (Terence Mathis and Tony Martin). Roddy White has 79 receptions for 1,156 yards, while Julio Jones eclipsed 1,000 for the first time in his career with 1,071 on 69 grabs. Jones also has nine touchdown catches, and White is now the team's all-time leading receiver.
Atlanta might have the best safety tandem in the entire league. Thomas DeCoud and William Moore have combined for 10 interceptions with six and four, respectively. Moore missed the last two games to injury and will likely sit again on Saturday. Both should be considered Pro Bowl candidates.
John Abraham has seen a revival that a lot of fans did not see coming. He has 10 sacks on the year.
The Falcons are undefeated at home with one game to go against the Buccaneers in the final week. Their home record since 2008, when Ryan and head coach Mike Smith arrived, is 33-6.
Atlanta is on pace to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs for just the third time in team history. A 12-4 record would stand as tied for the third-best finish in team history, while a 14-2 record would tie with the 1998 team for the best regular season in franchise history.