Could Weak NFC South Be Atlanta Falcons' Achilles' Heel?

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIDecember 26, 2012

The Falcons are 13-2 on the year.
The Falcons are 13-2 on the year.Leon Halip/Getty Images

Regardless of what ESPN "experts" say, the Atlanta Falcons are Super Bowl contenders, despite the so-called "weakness" of the NFC South.

Every week, the panelists on ESPN find some way to criticize the Falcons and their play, despite the team's 13-2 record.

After close wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals, the panelists on Sportscenter and ESPN's First Take were critical. They only got louder when the Carolina Panthers owned the Falcons in Week 14.

Apparently, teams can't have a off week in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers had it against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks. The Green Bay Packers also struggled against the Giants, while the New England Patriots lost to the Cardinals.

Oh yeah, the Denver Broncos lost to the Falcons in Week 2 when Peyton Manning threw three first-quarter interceptions.

But, it's okay for them to lose and for us to not question how good they are.

So, what about this so-called weak NFC South?


Not Really That Weak

While the other three teams in the division have a combined record of 19-26, the NFC South isn't the worst of the divisions. The bottom three teams in the AFC West (12-33) and AFC East (18-27) are actually worse off.

If you ask any defensive coordinator in the NFL which three in a division they would rather not face, it would be the NFC South.

Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman create problems for opposing defenses. Remember, Brees is leading the NFL in passing yards.

The AFC East, on the other hand, has Ryan Tannehill, Mark Sanchez (or Greg McElroy) and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The AFC West has Phillip Rivers, Brady Quinn and Carson Palmer.

So, who would you rather face?

Obviously, matchups are about more than the quarterback, but they do play a large role in the game plan.



In Week 15, many thought the Giants would easily dispose of the Falcons. But what happened? The Falcons caused three turnovers en route to a 34-0 win.

The Giants were thought to be the first real test for the Falcons on the year. They didn't count their Week 2 win against the Broncos, since Peyton Manning didn't have the team clicking yet.

Take a look at the ESPN staff's picks for the game. The best comes from Don La Greca, "There will be way too much Eli on the field for the Falcons to prevail."

He probably meant too much of Eli throwing to the wrong team.

The experts do have one thing right. It will take the Falcons winning a playoff game before they will become believers.


It's the NFL

While there are obviously some teams that are better than others, it's still the NFL and anything could happen.

How else do you explain the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Saints? Or the Jacksonville Jaguars beating the Indianapolis Colts?

Every team has good players and can beat anyone on any given day.

The Falcons have earned their 13-2 record and it doesn't matter who they have played. They are a good team and should be considered legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl.