Atlanta Falcons Progress Report: Home-Field Advantage Is Crucial

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Atlanta Falcons Progress Report: Home-Field Advantage Is Crucial
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

With one more win, the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons will secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Playing in the Georgia Dome couldn’t be more important for the Falcons and their postseason efforts.

The first-round bye that accompanies the conference’s first or second seed would be nice, but not having to play a game outside the temperature-controlled dome is truly what’s on Atlanta’s radar.

The easy reason is comfort. Playing in front of a friendly crowd in a comfortable environment gets noticed by the players on the field.

“That’s been huge for us,” said quarterback Matt Ryan in playing at home and the success it’s brought. “Coach Smith does a great job at the beginning of the year of preaching that he wants to win at home and defending our dome. We’ve done a good job of that. I think our fans have been awesome. The support has been awesome, and they’ve been loud in the dome. I think that helps when our defense is playing.”

Atlanta’s “dome-field advantage” isn’t just a figment of the imagination. Numbers don’t lie.

The Falcons have won their last 11 games in the Georgia Dome. And while that’s an impressive figure, it doesn’t completely tell the story of how good Atlanta is at home.

Since head coach Mike Smith arrived in 2008, which coincidentally is the same time Ryan was drafted, the Falcons are 33-6 in games played at home during the regular season. Those 33 wins are tied with the New England Patriots for the most wins in the NFL at home over the last five years.

Ryan is 33-4 in the Georgia Dome and has the best home winning percentage of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Compare that to a 22-17 road record during his five-year career, and it’s easy to see why the Falcons would prefer home games moving forward.

It’s not just his record that’s much better at home. Ryan’s completion percentage is just under five points higher in the Georgia Dome. He’s thrown 24 percent less interceptions at home, and his quarterback rating is almost 10 points better.

Atlanta’s six losses at home since 2008 have come against only four teams: The Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints (three times).

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Saints have won more games in the Georgia Dome than any other NFL team, and they are the only team with multiple wins against a Smith-coached Falcons team. But the Saints only have a minute chance of making the playoffs. They basically must win both remaining games on their schedule and get help from at least four other teams.

Green Bay, on the other hand, has already qualified for postseason action and has a record of blowing up Atlanta’s well-laid plans.

The Packers beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome 25-14 in 2011. But it was a 2010 playoff trip to Atlanta that truly crushed the Falcons.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In 2010, Atlanta had the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye. Green Bay was a wild-card team, the No. 6 seed and was coming off a 21-16 win over Philadelphia en route to a trip to the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons didn’t show up for that playoff game at home. Atlanta’s only home playoff game under Smith was a brutal loss to the Packers 48-21, who went on to win the Super Bowl.

Atlanta has a great record at home, but the Falcons are still looking for their first playoff win under Smith. Playing at home throughout the postseason is a good start. Avoiding Green Bay and possibly New Orleans wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.

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