Flying Under the Radar: Why the Atlanta Falcons Will Sneak into the Playoffs

Ryan DuncanContributor IIINovember 19, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball against the New Orleans Saints at Georgia Dome on November 13, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Through week 10 of the 2011 season, The Atlanta Falcons have already amassed more losses than they did in all of 2010.  After finishing the 2010 regular season an NFC best 13-3, they fell in the second round of the playoffs to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

In April, the Falcons made the most noise in the NFL Draft moving up 21 spots to grab receiver Julio Jones.  A move that was expected to take an already impressive offense, and make them elite. 

So far, things have not been quite what everyone expected.  Despite a solid rookie year, Jones has missed two games with a hamstring injury and until a breakout game against Indianapolis, had failed to be the immediate impact so many had expected. 

The Falcons came out with a slow start, losing three of their first five.  Their biggest issue was the Falcons' porous offensive line.  A unit that gave up only 23 sacks in all of 2010, they gave up 13 in just the first three games of 2012.  After losing guard Harvey Dahl in free agency, this unit was slow to come together.  This is a problem that they have already improved on, giving up only seven sacks in the last six games. 

Now sitting at 5-4, the Falcons playoffs start now.  They are the No. 8 seed in the NFC, and after losing to the Saints on a questionable fourth down call, they are seemingly playing for a wild card.  Fortunately for the Falcons, they stars appear to be aligning with their remaining schedule.

Five of the Falcons remaining seven games are played indoors where the Falcons are 4-2 this season, and 22-6 since 2008.  This team plays it's best football inside, and their schedule has them set up to make a run.  The two games the Falcons will be playing outdoors are against the Matt Leinart led Houston Texans, and the Cam Newton led Panthers. 

With the playoff picture beginning to take shape, the Falcons right now are on the outside looking in, but with a generous remaining schedule, the Falcons could build momentum just in time for the playoffs.