Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons Are Flyin' (for Third Straight Time) into Seattle

Mark CrystelContributor IIIDecember 17, 2010

Matt Ryan has won 95% of his home starts, which is almost the polar opposite of the success rate NFL teams have had winning three straight road games
Matt Ryan has won 95% of his home starts, which is almost the polar opposite of the success rate NFL teams have had winning three straight road gamesStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

Pending the status of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at New England, this weekend’s slate of NFL matchups features zero games with a point spread of more than a touchdown, which may lead to more guesses of which teams will be the most likely to win outright.

The four highest spreads are about six points each with Pittsburgh, Dallas, Atlanta and Oakland being favored over their opponents.

The Broncos have some major revenge in mind for what Oakland did to them up in Denver a few weeks ago, while the Jets are due for a touchdown after going without one over the last two games.

Meanwhile, anything can happen in an NFC East division rivalry between two teams out of playoff contention. 

But only one of those teams is on the road, and that’s Atlanta.

Not only are the Falcons on the road, they are also traveling for the third straight week, having already won their first two games. And when it comes to history over the last two decades or so, a seven-plus-point win over Seattle would actually be a rarity.

As for Seattle, they are coming off a bad-looking game at San Francisco and a 40-21 loss. The Seahawks committed six turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by Matt Hasselbeck, but actually outgained the 49ers in total yardage. It’s possible but unlikely they’ll replicate a sloppy effort like that, especially since this is another important game they need to win for playoff contention to remain a reality.

The last time Hasselbeck threw four interceptions in a game was at St. Louis back in October before his bye week.

During the following week of vacation, he utilized his time by studying film and preparing for the next game at Chicago. Like their upcoming game against the Falcons, the Seahawks were also a six-point underdog in that game, and they beat the Bears outright.

This time they are at home and taking on a surging Falcons team that has won its last seven games, but four of those wins came by six points or less.

It’s hard to simply win a game in the NFL, let alone a road game. It’s twice as hard to win two road games in a row. But winning three games in a row on the road (with no home games in between) is something less than 10 percent of teams have been able to do in recent memory.

From 1988 until 1999, NFL teams went on the road for three consecutive times on 74 occasions. That number sharply declined over the last decade, as teams had this inconvenience just over 30 times prior to this season.

One thing that stayed consistent was the lack of a three-game winning streak over such a stretch.

When it comes to winning all three games consecutively on the road in the NFL, it’s happened just nine times out of more than 100 chances, and only six teams have been able to pull it off over the last 22 years.

The most recent team to achieve this was last season’s New York Giants, but it was at the very beginning of the season before injuries and fatigue had a chance to set in. Like the Falcons, the Giants were favored in that game, but not many times has a team been favored in that third road game following two road wins. As a matter of fact, in the last 20 years, you can count the number of times on two hands.

Since 1988, Atlanta joins 21 other teams prior to this season that achieved road wins in their first two games during a three-game road stretch. Of those 21 teams, just five teams won that third game by a touchdown or more.

The Falcons are listed as about a six-point favorite.

Aside from last season’s Giants, more notable teams to pull this off included the great 49ers team from 1989. Brett Favre's 1997 Super Bowl Packers also pulled off three straight road wins and covered the point spread in that third game at Carolina as about a seven-point favorite. Jacksonville did it twice, and so did the Eagles.

However, the Chicago Bears Super Bowl team from 2006 failed in its third try, as well as Buffalo’s Super Bowl team from 1991 that lost outright as an eight-point favorite.

The Falcons are the better team; there's no doubt about that. But if there’s one game out of their remaining three they can "afford" to lose, it’s this one. The Falcons get division rivals New Orleans and Carolina at home, where Matt Ryan is 20-1 as a starter, to end the season.

Keep all of this in mind on Sunday afternoon, and don't be surprised when the Seahawks knock off the Falcons in Seattle.