5 Reasons Atlanta Falcons Will Finally Put Skeptics Down for Good

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIJanuary 11, 2013

5 Reasons Atlanta Falcons Will Finally Put Skeptics Down for Good

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    The skeptics don't like the Atlanta Falcons—especially in the playoffs.

    The Falcons haven't won a playoff game since Mike Smith and Matt Ryan came to town. And, the sports writers, commentators and prognosticators have let them know about it.

    Throughout the year, the Falcons had success. But the pundits said it didn't matter until they won a playoff game.

    When the team lost games to the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they screamed even louder.

    Whatever the Falcons did in the regular season didn't matter.

    Why? Because they haven't won a playoff game since Smith and Ryan took over.

    Now, it's playoff time, and the Falcons get their chance.

    Here are five reasons why the Falcons will finally put the skeptics down.

The Swagger Is Back

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    When the Falcons acquired Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles, they knew they were getting a very good corner.

    However, what the Falcons didn't anticipate getting is a guy who would bring the swagger back to the defense.

    It's a swagger that hasn't been seen since the days of the "Dirty Bird."

    Samuel is a notorious trash-talker. But, more than anything else, he backs it up with his play on the field.

    The rest of the defense, especially the secondary, has followed that example.

    And, it's that example that has given them the confidence they can go all the way.

The Passing Game Is Sick

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    The Falcons have been known as a running team in the past.

    While teams must still run the ball to keep the balance, through the air is the way to the Super Bowl.

    For the last two years, the Falcons have gone more toward passing the ball mainly because they drafted Julio Jones in 2011.

    Before that, it was all about the running game and Michael Turner or whoever was running the ball before him.

    The passing game was never a legitimate threat for the Falcons.

    Now there's Jones and Roddy White on the outside, and Tony Gonzalez over the middle.

    Is there a better trio in the NFL?

The Falcons Win Close Games

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    Some people credit the weak schedule for the Falcons' ability to put the nail in the coffin.

    Others call it the ability to win close games.

    In the playoffs, the ability to make the big play at the end of the game is what is going to be the difference between a win and a loss.

    How many times have we seen the team that wins the Super Bowl make a big play on one of their final offensive drives?

    The New York Giants did it last year, as did the Green Bay Packers the year before.

    The Falcons have had many moments this year, including the 59-yard reception by White as the Falcons came back to beat the Panthers at home.

    Atlanta is 7-2 in games decided by seven points or less. While some of those close wins were against teams that struggled to win games this year, the fact is they still won. After all, it is still the NFL, and no game is a gimmie.

    If we were going to go by that logic, then the New England Patriots losing to the Arizona Cardinals would mean something or the fact that the Patriots are 3-4 in games decided by seven points of less.

Special Teams in Superb

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    Special teams has been superb for the Falcons this year.

    From the field goals to punting and kickoffs, the Falcons have a grasp on what to do on special teams.

    Matt Bryant has kicked 33 field goals with a long of 55 yards this year. Even better is the fact that he's 4-of-4 on field goals of more than 50 yards.

    Then there's punter Matt Bosher, who is averaging 47.5 yards per punt, with a net of 40.7 yards.

    Bosher is creating enough hang time, and the kick-coverage team is getting down the field quickly to prevent much of a return.

    The Falcons don't make too many mistakes in special teams, and that's a major key in the playoffs.

    It's one of the reasons why they won 13 games this year and will be one of the reasons they'll have success in the playoffs.

There's Something to Prove

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    Perhaps, no team will be playing with a bigger chip on their shoulder than the Falcons this weekend.

    No matter what the Falcons did this year, they were cast aside because they have yet to win a playoff game with Smith as a coach.

    It didn't matter what they did during the regular season. They weren't going to get any respect until they won a playoff game.

    While one can understand the Falcons have to prove it in the playoffs, the lack of respect paid to the Falcons throughout the year was mind-boggling.

    Case in point.

    Matt Miller, Bleacher Report's NFL Draft lead writer, conducts power rankings each week.

    For most of the season, the Falcons were at or near the top. They lost to the Saints in Week 10 and only dropped to No. 2.

    However, the next week, they beat the Cardinals and still dropped another spot. The following week, they beat the Bucs and dropped yet another spot.

    The Falcons lost in Week 14 and dropped in No. 7, although they still had an 11-2 record...the best in the league.

    A win over the Giants the next week bumped them up one spot.

    By the end of the regular season, the Falcons ranked sixth. From Miller's story:

    With the most wins in the NFC, Mike Smith and his Atlanta Falcons will enjoy home-field advantage as long as they are in the playoffs. After a Week 17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's fair to wonder just how long that will be.

    This is only one example as Miller isn't the only one to knock the Falcons throughout the year. In fact, most pundits did.

    However, all the doubters (or haters...whichever you prefer) have put a chip on the Falcons' shoulders. That alone will play in their minds on Sunday afternoon.