Falcons wait for playoff picture to clear





By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

FLOWERY BRANCH — After the Falcons earned the NFC’s top playoff seed on Saturday night, coach Mike Smith didn’t plan on watching the rest of the conference play on Sunday.

He figured there’s no use in checking in on Atlanta’s competition until the picture gets clearer.

“I don’t try to watch scoreboards,” Smith said the day after the Falcons won 31-18 at Detroit. “It’s going to fall into place. … There is a lot of football to be played. A lot of things happen this week and next week as far as who plays who and who plays where.”

Atlanta is the only team in the NFC that already knows the “where” part. The Falcons, on either Jan. 12 or 13, will play host to the lowest-seeded NFC team to advance from first round of the playoffs the week before.

The rest of the NFC contenders are still jockeying for position.

The Packers and 49ers are vying for the other first-round bye. The Packers can finish no worse than the third seed, which means Atlanta has no chance of playing them until the NFC championship game. The 49ers could slide to the No. 5 seed but it’s unlikely.

So the Falcons’ first playoff opponent figures to be one of four teams: Seahawks, Vikings, Redskins or Bears. Of those teams, the Seahawks could present their stiffest challenge.

Seattle has won six of seven games while posting big offensive numbers in their second-half surge. The Seahawks damaged the 49ers’ status as favorites to win the NFC championship with an impressive 42-13 romp on Sunday night.

Seattle sliced through the NFC’s top scoring defense and now has outscored its last three opponents 150-30. The Seahawks, like the past two Super Bowl champions, appear to be surging at the right time.

“We knew we were capable of doing this,” Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We had no doubt. … It took time because we’re a young team. We had to mature. We had to grow together, build that chemistry, build that trust out there on the field.”

The Seahawks can win the NFC West if they beat the Rams on Sunday and the 49ers lose to the Cardinals. But they most likely will be the No. 5 seed in the NFC with a road game at the eventual NFC East champion.

The Seahawks certainly are capable of defeating either the Redskins or Bears in the wild card round. If they do so and the No. 6 NFC seed doesn’t spring an upset, the Falcons would open the playoffs against the hottest team in the NFC.

Seattle is among the wild-card contenders that is best capable of exploiting three of Atlanta’s weaknesses: running the ball, stopping the run and slowing mobile quarterbacks.

But the Falcons’ other potential foes also could present problems.

The Vikings and Redskins both boast strong ground games. The Vikings are No. 6 in the NFL against the run and the Bears have allowed just six rushing touchdowns all season.

Washington’s Robert Griffin III is another quarterback who can break off big gains. The Falcons won 24-17 at Washington on Oct. 7 after they knocked Griffin out of the game with a head injury.

Of course, Atlanta’s playoff opposition will have to deal with a passing game at top form and a defense that can force turnovers in bunches. The Falcons have been tough at home — they have an 11-game home win streak — and will have the benefit of relaxing at home while watching their next opponent try to earn a date in the Georgia Dome.

“I think it’s going to be great to have a long home stint for this playoff game,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. He quickly added: “Playoff games.”

Atlanta reached its primary regular-season goal of making its playoff opponents come to the Dome. The Falcons say they are ready for all challengers.

“They are going to see a team that is prepared,” Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “They are going to see a team that plays 60 minutes. And they are going to have to give us their best shot. We are a very confident team.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

78 comments Add your comment

Marcus

December 25th, 2012
9:35 am

You are a diligent man….. Working on Jesus’ birthday. :)

Merry Christmas, DOL.

Belated congrats on l’il Ms. DOL getting into Howard. Hope we (FAMU) can provide some comp. this fall in football.

Falcons4Eva

December 25th, 2012
9:51 am

Its Time To RISE UP – Falcons Players and Our Fans

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

December 25th, 2012
9:56 am

Merry Christmas to the entire Falcon organization. Thank you for a wonderful season. As always, I am with you “Win, Loose or Draw.” Still, I hope you go all the way. Meanwhile, get some rest and enjoy your families, teamates, friends and your TRUE fans.

Go Falcons!!!

Greg

December 25th, 2012
10:04 am

Bring on the hawks for a bird on bird brawl!

lowdownjj

December 25th, 2012
10:40 am

Mike Nolan is the best Christmas present the Falcons coulda hoped for. He will be the biggest reason for the Coons deep playoff run

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

December 25th, 2012
10:40 am

HEPPY BURFDAY JEEBUS!!

Eric C.

December 25th, 2012
11:48 am

That would figure getting the Seahawks…it is never easy for the Falcons

Mike

December 25th, 2012
12:07 pm

DLED,
Sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you are doing better soon. I’ve been a Falcon fan since the first game in 1966. There has been a lot of misery and disappointment over the years. I think the 1980 playoff loss to the Cowboys was my lowest point. I have really enjoyed the last 5 years. It seems that all many of the current fans want to focus on is the playoff losses, but at least the Falcons are now getting there! I think the playoff wins will come.

I don’t think many fans really appreciate what the Falcon organization has done the last 5 years. There have been so many dark times in the past. Never back to back winning seasons before this group, now we have five in a row!

It seems that the fans these days have more of a “video game mentality” rather than what actually happens on the field with real humans. I think folks should be more appreciative for what they have rather than worrying about what they don’t have. That not only goes for sports but life in general.

One more thing, if I hear the “expert opinion” about our lack of a ground game one more time I might gag. We’ve had a strong ground game in recent years and how did that turn out? There will be teams with a “good ground game” watching the playoffs. I think our current coaching staff is putting the players we have in a position to win for the most part and I expect that to continue. GO FALCONS!

Rise Up...in my pants

December 25th, 2012
12:10 pm

Something’s rising up all right. Gotta love those those gorgeous gals that only come to church once a year, especially when they’re wearing Falcons earrings!

supaficial

December 25th, 2012
12:13 pm

Hose

December 25th, 2012
12:39 pm

Happy Holidays everyone. Go Falcons!!!

David

December 25th, 2012
12:41 pm

I was at the Detroit game, I was embarrssed when Turner got that safety call on him, when is Smith going to get his head out of his A$$ and play Snelling ?

ricocarty21

December 25th, 2012
12:51 pm

Go Falcons!! Been waiting for super bowl since 1966!!

sam

December 25th, 2012
12:59 pm

AMEN Brother, Mike!

We all need to be thankful for the last five years.

HarryCT

December 25th, 2012
1:00 pm

As an original season ticket holder before moving to Connecticut, I was thankful for DirecTV NFL Package. I never miss a game and have enjoyed EVERY year. Quite a ride this year, and we are leading a chearing section in New England! Go Falcons!

okeetee

December 25th, 2012
1:13 pm

“That would figure getting the Seahawks…it is never easy for the Falcons”

…has it dawned on anyone that the Seahawks might get beat on the road playing the Skins? Both are starting rookie quarterbacks, and RG 3 seems to be the better of the two when it comes to not making mistakes! I’d love to see that happen and we get the Skins in our first playoff game! We will slap knots on their heads…..faster than they can rub them!

Sig STL

December 25th, 2012
1:13 pm

Ricocarty21: Were you AOL after the 1998 14-2 season when Falcons went to SuperBowl against Broncos?

Answered All Questions

December 25th, 2012
1:29 pm

@Mike

Great post. My sentiments exactly. The last five years have been a blast. Win or lose in the playoffs will not waver my love for the Falcons. Playoff wins will eventually come.

Dan

December 25th, 2012
1:49 pm

bedpan is also a BONEHEAD!!!

DirtyBirdinCali

December 25th, 2012
2:17 pm

@Marcus – it’s not really Jesus’s birthday, just the day we celebrate it.

wisconsinfalcons fan

December 25th, 2012
3:13 pm

why do you call the team ( coons ) it isn’t short for falcons

Whadda Ya Know?

December 25th, 2012
3:55 pm

Don’t believe the haters who keep brining up past playoff years that they didn’t win. This is a different team with coordinators that can actually game plan and make in-game adjustments, we have players that have won the SB before now, this team was young and has grown together as a team. Falcons will rise up and kick *ss and take names in the playoffs. You can bet on it.

garcia

December 25th, 2012
4:39 pm

Rico Carty. Walk softly and carry a big stick.

Chaos

December 25th, 2012
5:48 pm

@Mike
Thanks it seems you hit the nail on the head. Those of us that has been fans from the begining can understand. If we never win a playoff game, we are not a celler dweller team. We are a respected organization and I heard and expert say that no team fears the Falcons, well I bet they all take them serious with respect.

Son Of Bart

December 25th, 2012
6:09 pm

@wisconsinfalcon

It’s a nickname. Just easier to roll off the tongue for Southerners. I am a Georgian and I have heard them called that since I was 11 years old. I’m 57 today. Just a colloqiualism. Hope that helps you out. My wife is from New Orleans and she calls herself a “coon a**” It means absolutely nothing…

Stevo

December 25th, 2012
6:13 pm

Yeah, but wouldn’t you want to scout the teams you might have to play ?

coacht

December 25th, 2012
7:07 pm

“Coons” is an affectionate reference to our long suffering Fal-Coons.
When you have suffered with them as long as we have…..you’ve heard it all….
and Fal-Coons is meant affectionately.

WILCO

December 25th, 2012
10:05 pm

atl will rise up and beat green bay in the playoffs—take it to the bank! atl to the super bowl!

Fats G

December 25th, 2012
10:14 pm

I salute this year’s Falcons. May end up with best record in all of NFL.. H…Bell’s that says alot

hit a single

December 25th, 2012
10:57 pm

The Falcons must win the line of scrimmage if they want to win in the playoffs.

Antman

December 25th, 2012
11:00 pm

My hopes are high for the falcon’s, and all the the remaining teams are good: seatle is surging at the right time this year just as the packers were two years ago, and the Giant’s were last year. So Smitty has seen this before and I believe he’ll be ready this time

Michael M.

December 25th, 2012
11:09 pm

Pass me that Pitcher full of Falcons kool-aid, I’ll drink a cup ! ………………………………………………………………………Falcons all the way this time baby !

Brian F.

December 25th, 2012
11:21 pm

I don’t think the #6 seed pulls the upset against the Niners. Start preparing for the Seahawks !!

LOL at the Aints

December 25th, 2012
11:23 pm

I affectionatley called them the “Coons” a couple of years ago on Jeffs blog and he threatened to Ban me,, Political correctness run amuck. I told him to go ahead. LOL,, Great post Mike, People that havent been around this team for 40 years really cant appreciate whats happening right now. Go Birds!

bePositive

December 25th, 2012
11:40 pm

My God. Would some of u rednecks stop crying and think positive for once. Its very common to split the year with your DIVISION RIVALS. that leaves us at 13-3. Stop reading the negative crap written by dorks that never put cleats on. Use your brain. This team is deadly, not perfect. we just smoked superbowl champs 34-0 then beat an angry lions team up there. Beat both Mannings..etc.etc. So many positives….OUR NEXT AWAY GAME IS FEB 3rd in NEW ORLEANS

icndark

December 26th, 2012
1:09 am

I’m with ya B+. While they tell us who’s dangerous in the playoffs, we just ask who’s next?

Go Falcons!

AtlantaMan

December 26th, 2012
4:56 am

I saw the first FALCONS game ever played in Atlanta, and I have been a fan through all the years since. However, I have never heard them referred to as the Fal Coons. They are the FALCONS!

Samuel

December 26th, 2012
5:22 am

Any team can beat you, with that in mind, it really doesn’t matter who you play. Just go out and play Falcon football be physical and the rest will take care of it self….

violet123

December 26th, 2012
5:30 am

yes. that is right Falcons team and fans….our next game wll be Feb. 3rd. Don’t miss it.

violet123

December 26th, 2012
5:38 am

Thank you FALCONS for the great year. We enjoyed watching every game win or lose.

Wingman

December 26th, 2012
6:09 am

DAVID- I have said from the beginning of Snelling’s time on the team that he is a better back than Turner. He is faster, quicker, makes decisions faster than Turner. And he plays with more emotion and abandon. He also moves the pile. I agree with you. It is time for Turner to retire.

lowdownjj

December 26th, 2012
7:19 am

I know Seattle has been. Playing good ball in front of the 12th man. But why is everybody ready to proclaim them champs?? A rookie QB in the playoffs that, on the road has lost to SF, MIA, ST LOUIS, DETROIT, AND (REALLY) ARI. Come on man!

Esquire

December 26th, 2012
7:42 am

We have a game Sunday against a South rival. Can we focus here folks? Let’s get the sugar plum fairies out of our heads and continue to play these games one at a time. A lot can happen to change our outlook on the playoffs. Our mental edge and injury status are on the line.

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS….!!!!

Esquire

December 26th, 2012
8:05 am

Atlanta Offense
PTS 26.8 (5th) YDS 375.2 (7th ) PASS YDS 286.4 (5th) RUSH YDS 88.8 (28th)
Atlanta Defense
PTS 18.5 (4th) YDS 365.5 (23rd) PASS YDS 243.7 (23rd) RUSH YDS 121.8 (20th)

Bucs Offense
PTS 24.5 (13th) YDS 363.6 (10th) PASS YDS 250.7 (9th) RUSH YDS 112.9 (16th)
Bucs Defense
PTS 25.1 (24th) YDS 386.7 (29th) PASS YDS 303.0 (32nd) RUSH YDS 83.7 (1st)

Would love to see the Birds pound the Bucs on the ground with a running attack.

Obliterate Tampa Bay………………………

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS!!!!

zbulldawg

December 26th, 2012
8:06 am

It will be nice to get some of our players healed up. Work on our running game. I am so glad we are the underdogs this time & playing at home. I think we match up good with any team we play. We’ve beat some of the best QB’s in the NFL this year. But it seems everybody thinks it was just a off day for the QB’s.That’s all good. Because after this week everybody will be at “0″. It will be down to a 3 game season for us. RISE UP

Esquire

December 26th, 2012
8:21 am

lowdownjj
December 25th, 2012
10:40 am

Mike Nolan is the best Christmas present the Falcons coulda hoped for. He will be the biggest reason for the Coons deep playoff run
************************************************************
The BS about the Falcons being referenced as the coons for years is crap. Never was nor never will be an affectionate handle for this organization. I don’t give a rat’s behind about what the trolls call our
2012 NFL NFC South Division Champions but somebody trying to say that has been a norm will be met head on with the truth……..sounds like Caints fans trying to troll but afraid to stick their heads completely out of their hole.

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS!!!!

Esquire

December 26th, 2012
8:33 am

Son Of Bart
December 25th, 2012
6:09 pm

@wisconsinfalcon

It’s a nickname. Just easier to roll off the tongue for Southerners. I am a Georgian and I have heard them called that since I was 11 years old. I’m 57 today. Just a colloqiualism. Hope that helps you out. My wife is from New Orleans and she calls herself a “coon a**” It means absolutely nothing…
****************************************************
Maybe you should take a big dose of Dulcolax because you are full of crap. NEVER has that been an endearing term for the Atlanta Falcons. Your wife is from New Orleans? I am very sorry.

You may have been the very last person to jump on the bandwagon so feel free to just jump right off from your seat at the back.

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS!!!!

Brian

December 26th, 2012
9:50 am

D-Led, how can the Falcons play on the 12th? According to the Ga dome site they are having a Monster Truck thing on Saturday night 1/12 @ 7:00pm, unless that is getting cancelled.

Mike "CHOKE" Dogs To Death

December 26th, 2012
10:58 am

The Seahawks are seemingly invincible at home, but so are the Falcons, and this one will be played in the Dome. Seattle is an entirely different team on the road.

Mike "CHOKE" Dogs To Death

December 26th, 2012
11:01 am

We don’t want the Bears in the first round. The mob of dirty, transplanted Chicagoans will swarm and infiltrate the Dome, diminishing the 12th man. But bring ‘em on. The Falcons can handle them.