FLOWERY BRANCH — The 2011 season hasn’t started quite exactly the way the Falcons envisioned.
“They haven’t had what they would consider a great start to the season,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. ”But we can’t let them get on track.”
But they haven’t fallen completely off the map like say Minnesota (1-5), Indianapolis (0-6), Jacksonville (1-5) and Denver (1-4).
Here’s why the game against Detroit is so important.
If the Falcons can beat a team with a winning record they could establish a degree of legitimacy as a playoff contender. (It might be wise to forgot about the Super Bowl stuff, for now. That’s a pipe dream until they start stopping folks on third down. They are last in the league at 49 percent in third down inefficiency.)
The Falcons have victories over Philadelphia (2-4), Seattle (2-3), and Carolina (1-5). They have been beaten by Chicago (3-3), Tampa Bay (4-2) and Green Bay (6-0). There’s a pattern in there somewhere.
So here are five reasons why the Falcons must beat the Detroit Lions:
1. Beat a winner: The defending NFC South Champs need to knock off the upstart Lions (5-1) at Ford Field to show that they can beat a team with a winning record before going into the bye week.
2. Conference play: The Falcons already have three conference losses, one of the key playoff tiebreakers.
3. Consistency: They need to break another hideous pattern: L-W-L-W-L-W. They have been up and down this season and have not played with “consistency.”
4. Wildcard race: Barring a Wayne Fontes-styled collapse, the Lions will likely be at the playoff finish line. The Falcons need to get the head-to-head advantage over one of the NFC North teams. The Lions and Falcons could finish 10-6 like Green Bay and Tampa Bay did last season. Green Bay got the last seed and Tampa Bay was at home. We know how that worked out.
5. Better vacation: I’m sure the bye week is much more enjoyable for the team coming of a W.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog