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Pointing to a playoff win?
The Atlanta Falcons share a lot in common with the AFC team that was supposed to be the No. 1 seed, and that is Houston. They do not scare anyone and have not piled up many big wins, as everyone knows the Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs under Mike Smith/Matt Ryan. The franchise has not won a playoff game since the 2004 season.
Good news is, this year the Falcons are the No. 1 seed, though they had that in 2010 when the Packers came in and blew them out, 48-21. Still, it should help over some of the past failures, as Ryan does have that sterling 33-6 record at home.
Of course, the sixth loss came on Sunday to Tampa Bay in a bizarre game where the Falcons played out with their starters, lost to a team on a five-game losing streak and saw John Abraham and Dunta Robinson leave with injuries.
If the goal of that game was to gain momentum, then the Falcons failed miserably, as it just casts a darker cloud over their postseason chances.
Since playing at home is the big advantage of having the No. 1 seed, are there any concerns that Atlanta only outscored its opponents by 60 points this year (ranked No. 9 in the league) or that Ryan had 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 86.2 passer rating in the Georgia Dome?
It adds up to a team that simply does not scare anyone, which is what the top seed used to do. No one would be surprised if Minnesota or Seattle went in there and won in two weeks, and it would be almost expected if the Falcons go on to lose to a team like Green Bay or San Francisco.
Yes, a No. 1 seed may end up being the home underdog in a few weeks. That has not happened since the 2004 Patriots were three-point favorites in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship.
Poor Tony Gonzalez has been around since 1997 and is 0-5 in postseason games. This could be his last chance. He rounds out what is now a pass-heavy offense, and second-year receiver Julio Jones should be better than he was last year.
But it is going to fall on Ryan’s shoulders, and his 5.31 yards per attempt passing in the playoffs ranks 92nd out of 95 quarterbacks all-time. Scoring and hitting big plays has been a real problem for him in the postseason, and he may have to face a No. 1 defense with a great secondary like Seattle right out of the gate.
Some criticize the Falcons as a “fluke” for winning too many close games. Sure, that may give them a record better than their stats suggest, but they have done it enough years to prove it is not a fluke.
Ryan has the all-time best record at game-winning drive opportunities at 22-13 (.629). The problem is that none of his three playoff losses have been close enough late for him to have the opportunity to have a game-winning drive.
This has been Ryan’s best season—and the best defensive team he has had—and if the Falcons cannot win a playoff game now, then when will they?
Only Y.A. Tittle went 0-4 as a playoff starter in his career. Billy Kilmer (0-4), Warren Moon (0-4) and Dave Krieg (0-5) are the only other quarterbacks to ever lose at least four straight playoff starts.
How soon is now, Matty Ice? Falcons fans have been waiting too long, and all hope could be gone with another one-and-done. The Falcons must overcome their history and get a win.
Scott Kacsmar writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, NBC Sports, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive, and can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.