Playoff rankings, and why Falcons can get to Super Bowl

Tom Brady and Matt Ryay, who met on the field in the preseason, can meet again in the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, who met in the preseason, may meet again in the Super Bowl.

It has been pointed out, primarily by folks who believe the Falcons will crash and burn in the postseason, that their only three losses this season came to teams that they could meet in the playoffs: New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh.

It’s a worthy stat, but I thought I would take it a little further. I computed the records of all the playoff teams against the playoff field and discovered something interesting. The Falcons and New England were the most tested teams during the season, based on the fact they played the most playoff teams: seven.

Here are the results: New England, as you would’ve guessed, is by far the cream of this postseason field. The Patriots’ 14-2 record included a 6-1 record against playoff teams. They are followed by the Falcons at 4-3; New Orleans (3-2); Green Bay, Chicago and Baltimore (3-3); Philadelphia (2-2); Kansas City (1-1); Pittsburgh and the New York Jets (2-4); Indianapolis (1-2) and Seattle (1-3).

It’s just one more reason why I believe the Falcons can make it to the Super Bowl. Here’s how I rank the field:

1. New England: The Patriots lost to the New York Jets in Week 2 and went 13-1 the rest of the season. (Trivia answer: They lost to the Browns.) How can you argue against a team with a plus-28 turnover differential  and a quarterback, Tom Brady, who in the last 11 games has 26 touchdowns and zero interceptions? If they don’t win it all, it’s an upset.

2. Pittsburgh: Would it be sacrilegious for me to suggest that coach Mike Tomlin is just as good as Bill Cowher  (or better)? He’s 43-21 (.667) in four seasons, has won a Super Bowl and this season kept the Steelers focused through the Ben Roethlisberger saga. The defense is as good as ever: No. 1 in points allowed and against the run.

3. Falcons: They didn’t blow a lot of teams away but this is a league generally devoid of blowouts. They’re not fazed by pressure moments. They have the passing combination of Matt Ryan-to-Roddy White (although Michael Turner needs to be better running). Their defense is significantly improved, particularly in the secondary. Also, they’ve committed an NFC-low 16 turnovers.

4. New Orleans: Don’t pay attention to that last game against Tampa Bay. The Saints got healthier and better as the season went on, and their only other loss in the last two months came at Baltimore. But the team’s strength is also its weakness: Drew Brees was No. 2 in the league in both touchdown passes (33) and interceptions (22). He had 11 interceptions last year.

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5. Philadelphia: I know. You fear Michael Vick coming back to Atlanta and taking your lunch money. It could happen. But Vick got beat up down the stretch. He went from zero interceptions in his first seven games to six interceptions (and 16 sacks) in his last five. He’s the playoffs’ biggest “X factor, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Eagles lose to Green Bay.

6. Green Bay: With Aaron Rodgers healthy, the Packers are a better team than the Eagles right now, but because they’re a wild card team they’ll be on the road, away from Lambeau Field. Their strength is Rodgers (two interceptions in his last eight starts) and the league’s No. 5 defense. Their weakness: The running game.

7. Baltimore: Their defense isn’t as great as in past years but it’s still pretty good and quarterback Joe Flacco has shown he can win playoff games. Throwing out the early season loss to Cincinnati, Baltimore’s only other defeats came at New England in overtime, at Atlanta (26-21) and to Pittsburgh (13-10).

8. Chicago: I realize the Bears got hot down the stretch and had impressive wins over the Eagles and Jets. But I still look at the team and see Jay Cutler. He threw six interceptions in the last four games. He also has been sacked 52 times, more than any quarterback in the league.

9. N.Y. Jets: The best thing about the Jets making the playoffs is we’ll get to see Rex Ryan spontaneously combust on the sideline when they lose. They won at Pittsburgh late in the season, which was impressive, but quarterback Mark Sanchez was shaky down the stretch: two touchdowns, six interceptions, 10 sacks in his last five starts.

10. Indianapolis: Without Peyton Manning, this is a last place team in the AFC South. With him, they’re always a threat. But not much of one. The Colts have no running game.

11. Kansas City: Coach Todd Haley must be the most miserable person on earth for even Charlie Weis to want to leave for Florida. The Chiefs are building a nice team but there’s too much going on off the field to expect a playoff run.

12. Seattle: Roger Goodell has no problem fining players for hits that he deems dangerous to the health of a quarterback. Shouldn’t he get fined for subjecting us to a 7-9 team making the playoffs?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

340 comments Add your comment

Paul H

January 4th, 2011
2:17 pm

They will indeed.

Paul H

January 4th, 2011
2:17 pm

Matt

January 4th, 2011
2:20 pm

Philly won’t beat GB.

joe

January 4th, 2011
2:25 pm

even if they don’t make it that far, maybe they can contact the UGA athletic dept and get plaques that say they did…

Paul H

January 4th, 2011
2:26 pm

Agree with Matt. I think GB beats ESPN’s favorite team (the eagles) and their favorite player (Vick). Then we have a great showdown here against GB, with the Falcons prevailing in the end with defense.

Falcons Rise Up!

January 4th, 2011
2:32 pm

As long as Falcons don’t play ultra-conservative in the playoff game like they did against the Saints, we should last at least until the 3rd round.

For the ‘Aints game I thought Mike Boo-Boo was calling plays instead of Mularkey.

ATLien73

January 4th, 2011
2:36 pm

I also agree with Matt. I think we beat both GB and Chicago to take our trip to Dallas!! P.S. Playoff tix arrived today!!! Go FALCONS!

da roosta

January 4th, 2011
2:39 pm

Please stop doing the wave when we are on offense. IGNORANT PEOPLE!

rollo lawson

January 4th, 2011
2:39 pm

Paul H., I agree that Green Bay is ESPN’s favorite team, along with New England, but they have turned on Mike Vick like a pack of wolves recently. He hasn’t given them their weekly birth rite/highlight package due to injuries. Therefore, his name is mud until he does right by them, lol!!!

atlppal

January 4th, 2011
2:44 pm

Falcons are one and done. They will not get pass GB!!

crackbaby

January 4th, 2011
2:47 pm

Schultz did analysis. This is watching bears dance. Yes it can be done. But he doesn’t do it very well and the bears get pissed off. Could we simply have a few jokes and trembling chihuahua references…. Puh-leeeze!

MoGA

January 4th, 2011
2:49 pm

Yeah, Green Bay has definitely taken over as ESPN’s favorite team all of a sudden. I don’t get that- they barely made the playoffs. I think they’ll be one and done. I’d love to see them come to ATL atlppal! We’ve already shown we can beat them.

Charles

January 4th, 2011
2:49 pm

Don’t think for one minute that the Saints are going to cake-walk against Seattle, because it won’t be! I think the Seahawks have a shot at beating the defending champs, thanks to their 12th man (the crowd noise) and the fact the weather in Seattle ain’t exactly very peachy this time of year.

falcon 1

January 4th, 2011
2:52 pm

falcons have the biggest advantage: home crowd and patience. Forget atlppal, he’s a Saints fan.

Paul H

January 4th, 2011
2:52 pm

Until the eagles got embarrassed by the viqueens, they were ESPN’s favorite team. It baffles me now that GB and Rodgers are their favorite. They had to beat a chicago team who had nothing to play for just to make it in. And STILL no love to Atlanta.

Oh and don’t forget that according to Trent Dilfer, we got “spanked” by the Saints last week.

Rico as in Puerto

January 4th, 2011
2:53 pm

That sounds about right. Green Bay has the defense to take Philly down. That would have them back in Atlanta and we can only hope our secondary holds up…it did last time we met. Thank you Atlanta Falcons players and staff for a great season thus far!

T2

January 4th, 2011
2:59 pm

At least the photo with this article is hot!!! As usual Jeff is not hot with his predictions.

atlppal

January 4th, 2011
3:01 pm

Saints fan all the way!! LOL….GB defeats Philly….Saints defeat Seahawks in Round One. Round 2….Dirty Birds fall HARD to GB…Saints beat Bears in the snow. Round 3…Saints host GB and win in a high scoring in the SuperDome!! Saints and Pats in the SB!!! Deal with it!!!

DawgFan

January 4th, 2011
3:01 pm

ESPN has given no love to the Falcons all year. From Dilfer’s continual bad-mouthing to Ditka saying the NFC teams that had separated themselves from the pack being the Bears, Saints, and Giants, the sports network has seemingly viewed Atlanta as an afterthought. Don’t forget Skip Bayliss either. Everyday on First and Ten he took perverse pleasure in talking about how overrated and just plain bad the Falcons were.

Dan

January 4th, 2011
3:03 pm

May as well stick with my pre-season pick of Falcons over Ravens. We’re the most well-rounded team in the NFC. In the AFC Baltimore finally gets New England after several near-misses.

DC

January 4th, 2011
3:05 pm

Falcons are he best team in the NFC and Trent Dilfer is an idiot who would not have a ring if it were not for the defense. Trent Dilfer cannot even be in the same conversation with Matt Ryan and he is mad about that.

Jonas Grumby

January 4th, 2011
3:06 pm

I’ll tell ya, little buddy, it will be Green Bay, then Chicago, then New England. Hope we can hang with N.E.

PMC

January 4th, 2011
3:08 pm

As good a rankings as I have seen anywhere Jeff.

Well done. Well Studied.

atlppal

January 4th, 2011
3:08 pm

Hey Falcon 1…what’s your take?

I'm Gumby, Dammit!!

January 4th, 2011
3:15 pm

Who dat? Seattle dat, dat’s who. Can’t wait to see Brees picking himself up out of the mud, wondering what just hit him.

Paul H

January 4th, 2011
3:27 pm

At this point we have to acknowledge that the d-bags up at elitist ESPN aren’t going to pick the Falcons, so let the Falcons do it for them. When their favorite teams start falling one by one, they’ll have no choice but to turn their heads our way.

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1911A1

January 4th, 2011
3:28 pm

Trent Dill-hole is ESPN’s version of Tim McCarver.

reality check

January 4th, 2011
3:38 pm

The Falcons and everyone else except Seattle has a reasonable chance to make the Superbowl in the NFC. It’s very wide open for any of those five teams to get to Dallas, and anything less than your A game probably means end of season. If the Falcons don’t make Dallas, there are going to be countless numbers of disappointed Falcon fans on this blog. If the Falcons don’t win at least one game, that level of disappointment would be off the charts leaving Smith and Ryan winless in the playoffs. A slow start in their divisional round game will create thick and instant tension within the Georgia Dome crowd, so getting started fast is imperative. There truly is a whole lot of pressure on the Falcons(from the owner on down) to do something this postseason. We’ll see how it all shakes out!

GregKennesaw

January 4th, 2011
3:39 pm

How does losing by 3 points to a team = spanked, especially when you beat the same team earlier by 3 points. Falcons will just have to win to make dilfer look like the idiot he is

Eric

January 4th, 2011
3:43 pm

Wow. Atlanta won the unscientific fan poll for a Super bowl prediction in the Atlanta newspaper. Psycholigists are aghast.

I think you can reach into a grab bag and pick any one of the five winning NFC teams to reach the big game. Obviously, the Falcons and Bears have an advantage, being at home and SKIPPING an entire round. But the Saints are back to last year’s form. The Eagles have Mike Vick, with whom all things on the gridiron are possible, and Aaron Rodgers can light up the scoreboard when pressured.

GregKennesaw

January 4th, 2011
3:44 pm

I think packers win, Saints win, so Saints/Chicago, Falcons/Packers. How many inteceptions will Brees and Cutler throw in that game? Falcons need to get Turner going, 100 yards form Turner, no turnovers, in the dome is hard to beat. I also would like for Snelling to get more carries. Also they keep bringing in Svitek as eligible receiver, think thay might throw to him just once! that would be fun to see.

Gamer

January 4th, 2011
3:44 pm

I have seen this photo of Tom and Matt several times during the regular season. What is Tom pointing to? Whatever it is, it seem to have Matt’s attention.

SUPERBOWL HEADLINE: BOSTON COLLEGE GOLDEN BOY MATTY-ICE VS. BOSTON’S NFL GOLDEN BOY MR. TOM BRADY…

OF COURSE TOM WOULD BE HEAVY FAVORITE TO WIN THE MATCHUP…..BUT I WOULD FAVOR MATTY-ICE…

midnight

January 4th, 2011
3:45 pm

Honestly, I think any of the teams that the Falcons could potentially have to play (outside of Seattle) would have a 50/50 shot of winning in the Dome, I think GB would be a better matchup for the Birds in the second round because they lack a run game and being one dimensional would help the Falcons D, the Saints would have a 50/50 chance and if the Eagles came to town at some point they would be a bad matchup to contain for a whole 60 minutes, however, the Eagles secondary can be had all day up the seam and away from Samuel. GO FALCONS!! IT WAS A GOOD REGULAR SEASON BUT THAT DOESN’T COUNT ANYMORE, SHOW US THIS TEAM CAN ACTUALLY WIN A PLAYOFF GAME!!!

GregKennesaw

January 4th, 2011
3:45 pm

realitycheck, you’re so right man

T2

January 4th, 2011
3:57 pm

1911A1 Trent Dill-hole is ESPN’s version of Tim McCarver. (funny comment !!!!)

HAHA! Someone took a shot at him last week on the Sirius Blitz by calling him(Trent) melodramatic… think it was Rich Gannon – not 100% sure. HaHa

blazerdawg

January 4th, 2011
3:59 pm

Wow – I totally agree with JS’s rankings. Maybe I would elevate Indy and Chicago over NY and Baltimore, but overall seems about right.

I do think that if the Falcons can win the NFC, then they will win the SB. I worry we will get too conservative in that game, if we get there.

Go Birds!!

Trent Dilfer

January 4th, 2011
4:01 pm

Did everyone see the Bears get SPANKED by Green Bay? That 10-3 beatdown totally exposed the Bears! And speaking of spankings, did everyone see that colossal butt-whoopin’ the Cowboys put on the Eagles? I’m surprised the Eagles are still going to field a football team after that woodshed punishing!!!

And don’t even get me started on what the Giants did to the Redskins! Have the Skins even been able to get out of bed since that 17-14 demolishing???

Trent Dilfer

January 4th, 2011
4:07 pm

PREDICTION: The Pats beat the Falcons 10-9 in the biggest Superbowl SMACKDOWN the world has ever seen!! How are the birds going to even take the field in the 2nd half when they find themselves down 7-6??? Get ready for the colossus of ALL spankings!! You heard it hear first!!

Cali Falcon Fan

January 4th, 2011
4:11 pm

I really hope that if the Falcons end up playing Philly in the dome that the fans boo Mike Vick. We need to show mike vick that this is not his city anymore and not give him energy by people cheering for him. When i went to the Saints@Falcons game there were too many Philly Vick Jerseys there. We absolutely can NOT show him love if he comes back to the dome. I love Vick but not as much as i love the Falcons. Please everyone, boo mike vick!

Larry

January 4th, 2011
4:20 pm

Atlanta will first play and exact our revenge upon the Saints. In the NFCCG, we will exact our revenge upon the Eagles and quiet the Atlanta residents that will pull for Vick for all the wrong reasons. We will then exact our revenge upon Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl–in a twist of irony–in the home city of the team that 30 years ago ended our season the last time we were the number one seed…Dallas!

The stars are aligned…embrace and enjoy the moment!

Sports Review

January 4th, 2011
4:26 pm

[...] Michael Vick Returns To Atlanta For Super Bowl ShotBleacher ReportTimes Record News -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Donbest.comall 89 news [...]

T.O. (the other one)

January 4th, 2011
4:26 pm

brady’s pointing to his super model girl saying ‘ yeah she’s mine’ but anyway as much as I’d like to see green bay win in philly, I kinda doubt rogers wins that one and espn’s man crush will end with him, and immediately switch back to dog killa, I mean mv7, aint’s beat seattle earlier after their bye week in the superdome by 14 so yeah I hope they at least get beat up w/ injuries if nothing else. We’ll get the ‘aints again, then the beagles, and the media will drool all week long, to their dismay it’ll be atl and the pats, matt will be with brady at the end pointing but this time at the lombardy trophy saying ‘ yeah it’s mine’

Matt

January 4th, 2011
4:29 pm

Jets went 2-4, not 3-3.

Steelers fan

January 4th, 2011
4:32 pm

Good call. Steelers ranked over the Falcons. Go Steelers, win your 7th Super Bowl !!!!!

Jeff Schultz

January 4th, 2011
4:37 pm

Matt — Thanks for catch, I’ll fix that.

Earl Austin Jr.

January 4th, 2011
4:48 pm

Patriots are the class of the league. Falcons a close 2nd.

reality check

January 4th, 2011
4:58 pm

From reading many of these comments, it appears to me that far too many Falcon fans have already penciled the Falcons in to Dallas. Don’t think for a second that Green Bay or New Orleans doesn’t have the ability to come in here and win because those teams have good quarterbacks with explosive playmakers and good defenses too. The Falcons road to Dallas is just not going to be on cruise control. The 13-3 regular season was outstanding, but a new season is getting set to start and this is the one that really counts. Fire-aim-ready is usually a recipe for disaster!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2011
5:21 pm

CHOKE winning a playoff game is like Arthur Blank shopping at Sears :)

I have heard a rumor that the Eagles and Falcons will make a trade for Kolb after CHOKE pulls his annual CHOKE :)

This dude only chance of being at the superbowl is asking Vick for a ticket :)

reality check

January 4th, 2011
5:22 pm

I don’t get all the sensitivity that some of these comments have directed at Trent Dilfer. Dilfer picked the Saints to defeat the Falcons on Dec. 27 and they did. What’s the big deal? The guy had an opinion and gave it and he happened to be correct. As far as getting spanked, clearly Dilfer was talking about the big difference in yardage(nearly 2 to 1 in favor of the Saints) and not the final score. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything Dilfer said. It just wasn’t what Falcon fans wanted to hear! Not everyone is picking the Falcons or the Saints for that matter, so if you are one of the sensitive ones, get over it!