Las Vegas has disrespected the Atlanta Falcons as their NFC Championship Game approaches. As of this writing, the San Francisco 49ers are four-point favorites at most betting venues. It's always murky waters when Vegas anoints the road team as the favorite, but it's even more questionable when the home dog entered the playoffs with the best record in the conference.
But that's been the song of the south this season for Atlanta. For a myriad of reasons, football fans haven't quite bought into the Falcons, as they have turned in an impressive season that has led them one win away from the Super Bowl.
So why don't we believe in the Falcons?
For starters, they aren't particularly impressive in any aspect of the game. They don't have a dynamic offense, a shutdown defense or stellar special teams. That's not to say they aren't extremely capable, but they haven't given fans a reason to believe they can dominate their opponent in certain aspects of a football game.
If you watched the offenses of recent Super Bowl winners such as New Orleans, Green Bay and New England, you felt they could score points every time they touched the ball. Defenses such as Baltimore and the New York Giants evoked confidence they could stop whatever offenses they faced. Atlanta isn't like any of these teams. They simply don't stand head and shoulders above their competitors on either side of the ball.
Secondly, the Falcons weren't particularly impressive in most of their regular-season games this season. Yes, they won almost all of them, but they often looked shaky in doing so. The Denver Broncos received a lot of style points this season, rolling over their competition easily, yet Peyton and his teammates will be at home watching while Atlanta keeps chugging along.
Finally, we remember the playoff disappointments. A slight burden has been removed after the Seattle win, but the previous losses still stick in our minds.
So, the San Francisco 49ers are favored. A great deal of football fans believe they are the superior team. Perhaps they are, but this is why they will likely lose this game.
They are on the road. The last three road appearances for the 49ers have resulted in a loss to the lowly St. Louis Rams, blowing a 29-point lead at New England and getting humiliated in Seattle.
The 49er defense, heavily lauded as being one of the best in the game, is barely serviceable these days. They have become an offensive team, and that should be a concern as their young quarterback with a half of season of experience, starts his first road playoff game.
We always remember what we just saw. We watched San Francisco run wild over a miserable Green Bay defense, and we watched Atlanta narrowly avoid disaster as a very good Seattle team almost came all the way back from early-game woes. San Francisco looked great, and Atlanta looked just as they always do—barely good enough to win.
Here's putting my money on the fact they will be just good enough to win one more time.