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NFL Playoffs 2013: Why the Atlanta Falcons Are Still Legit Super Bowl Contenders

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17: Thomas DeCoud #28 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after the game against the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Soven BerySenior Analyst IJanuary 11, 2013

The No. 5 seed Seattle Seahawks are visiting the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on Fox to continue the NFL divisional round of the playoffs. 

Somehow, the popular pick is the Seahawks. 

I have nothing but respect for what rookie Russell Wilson and his team have accomplished this year, but the lack of respect that the Falcons are getting is ridiculous. 

Experts and fans both are acting like the Seahawks are the top seed in the conference when, in reality, that honor goes to the team they are facing. 

Never has a squad that went 10-3 in the regular season, with all their losses coming in division, received less hype than these Falcons. 

Yes, I understand that Matt Ryan has never won a playoff game. However, Atlanta has never had a team like the one that is assembled now. 

They will break that lowly streak this weekend. 

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Atlanta was tied with the Denver Broncos for the best record in the NFL. 

The Broncos are considered favorites to land in New Orleans

So, why can’t the Falcons get any Super Bowl love? 

They should as they are still legitimate contenders to win it all. 

That is because they have a quarterback capable of taking them on that journey. Yes, the same quarterback that has been famously inefficient in the postseason. 

 

Matty Ice is enjoying his best season ever, posting career numbers in completions (422), completion percentage (68.6 percent), yards (4,719), touchdowns (32) and quarterback rating (99.1). This isn’t any average year. 

It is also an exceptional year for the rest of the offense. Coordinator Dirk Koetter is in charge of the seventh-highest-scoring offense in the NFL and one that averages 369.1 yards per game, eighth in the league. 

The passing game is a big reason for that. Ryan heads the sixth-ranked air assault, one that is averaging 281.8 yards per game and has 4,509 total yards. 

It doesn’t hurt that he has a prominent trifecta of receivers in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. They have absolutely enhanced his game this season. Combined, those three have 25 touchdowns on the year for a total of 150 points. 

It will be close to impossible for any secondary to slow them down. 

With Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield, a defense’s job only becomes harder. The veteran Turner has shown signs of slowing down, but the Oregon product Rodgers has picked up the slack. 

He has 362 yards on 94 attempts and a touchdown, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. The duo of Turner and Rodgers will spell trouble for opposing defenses as they have formed a two-headed monster in the backfield. 

 

That monster has shown how dangerous it could be as the Falcons have outscored opponents 419 to 299, thanks to the aforementioned rushing attack and a potent passing game. 

However, the defense also deserves some credit for that showing. 

The unit hasn’t been lights out, but it doesn’t have to be. Stephen Nicholas and his squad are doing everything right to help Atlanta win games and continue a magical season that will hopefully end in New Orleans. 

Nicholas has 97 total tackles and Sean Weatherspoon isn’t far behind with 95. Asante Samuel leads a secondary that has slowed down top receivers all year. 

John Abraham should be back for the contest with Seattle and he will be joined by Jonathan Babineaux, who is enjoying a significant season. 

Mike Smith and Mike Nolan are both great defensive minds and with two weeks to prepare they will be able to slow down the read option style of Wilson and his 'Hawks. 

Nolan will be able to create a game plan designed at targeting the rookie quarterback. 

The Falcons will be able to deal with a team that has a history of road struggles playing the early game on the road for a second week in a row. 

Maybe then they will get the respect they deserve. 

 

Will Atlanta go all the way? That’s a different article. 

But this is a team that deserves a nation having confidence that they can go all the way. Any other No. 1 seed would get that kind of respect and “Hotlanta” has earned it.

No matter which way you spin it, the Atlanta Falcons are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It would be very hard to argue against that. 

Maybe this is a squad that will get long overdue respect only when they earn tickets to Disneyland and a parade in Atlanta. 

For now though, this is a squad that needs fans to believe that Matt Ryan can hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

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