The unbeaten Falcons are about to learn how good they are

Win, win, win: All these Falcons do is win. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Win, win, win: All these boring old Atlanta Falcons ever do is win. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – The NFL schedule has been kind to the Falcons. They’re 6-0, and that flying start leaves the Falcons all but certain to make the playoffs. That this is a good team is beyond debate: Lousy teams don’t stay unbeaten deep into October. At issue now: Just how good is good?

Here’s where the scheduler performs another valuable service. The first six games were testing without being taxing, and the Falcons aced the exam. But now, having beaten no team that’s above .500, they’re in need of sterner tests. Bang on cue, here are their next four games: At Philadelphia, Dallas here, at New Orleans, Arizona here.

Technically, only one of those teams has a winning record. (And that’s Arizona, the one you’d least expect.) But the Falcons’ next three opponents are Brand Names, and two of those three games will staged on the road. After three narrow victories, it became possible to carp over the Falcons’ capacity to play down to the opposition. That won’t continue, simply because the level of opposition is set to rise. If the Falcons don’t start playing up, they’ll start losing.

“We’re 6-0, but we’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” said Todd McClure, the center. “We’ve got 10 games left, and the NFL is about peaking at the right time.”

The Falcons have bitter reason to know, given that they’ve been beaten in their first playoff game the past two seasons by teams with lesser records that wound up winning the Super Bowl. The 2010 Packers started 3-3 and were only 8-6 with two weeks remaining in the regular season; the 2011 Giants were 6-6 with a month to go. Moral of story: Nobody wins the Lombardi Trophy before Halloween.

That said, being 6-0 has enabled the Falcons to believe in themselves and their new coordinators, which is never a bad thing. Asked Wednesday if he considers this the NFL’s best team, free safety Thomas DeCoud said: “We haven’t shown that we are. We haven’t played our best game. But when we put that game together, it will be evident (that this team is indeed the best). To answer the question: Yes, but it has yet to be proven.”

Someone mentioned that the Falcons’ stats — they’re 13th in total offense, 22nd in total defense – aren’t suggestive of greatness. Said DeCoud: “It’s not how the stat line looks. The other team could rush for 200 yards but you’ll force a fumble and take it to the house. Games come down to five or six plays.”

To date, the Falcons have made all the plays of decision. But even good teams need to be given some indication of their true worth. If the Falcons win three of the next four, they’ll have ample reason to consider themselves the class of the league. If they lose a couple of games, Mike Smith and his assistants will have been handed a batch of teaching tools, which can, in the long run, be more valuable than locking down the home-field advantage.

We flash back to 2010: The Falcons were 13-3 and had beaten some good teams (New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore) en route, but a home loss to the Saints two nights after Christmas hinted that the NFC’s No. 1 seed-to-be wasn’t quite ready for its close-up. Sure enough, the wild-card Packers rolled into the Dome in January and exited 48-21 winners. Alas, the teaching tool arrived too late.

These Falcons are in a splendid spot. They’ve started so well they can absorb a loss or two and still win the NFC South breezing, and the road to 6-0 hasn’t been so filled with wonders as to make us wonder if such a run can be sustained.

McClure was likewise asked if the Falcons should be considered the NFL’s best. “I do,” he said. “Right now, I really do. I think everyone in this locker room does.”

Media consensus holds that the Falcons haven’t played as well as their record suggests. With the schedule about to grow teeth, nobody will be able to make that argument if this team keeps winning. Which would leave McClure … sad?

Yep. “I hope we kind of keep everything under the radar,” he said. “I’d rather be the team everybody is talking about in February.”

By Mark Bradley

120 comments Add your comment

Old devil

October 24th, 2012
3:06 pm

First, I don’t think it’s real…

Old devil

October 24th, 2012
3:09 pm

Now, if MB gives me kudos, I’ll know it’s real.

gtt

October 24th, 2012
3:17 pm

Matt

October 24th, 2012
3:17 pm

This season has been a mirage to this point. Now, reality will set in.

gtt

October 24th, 2012
3:17 pm

Darn, too quick!

RobbE33

October 24th, 2012
3:30 pm

Nice read, Mark. We shall see. Until then, it’s not weird if it works.

SeenThisB4

October 24th, 2012
3:38 pm

Go Eagles!!!

SeenThisB4

October 24th, 2012
3:41 pm

LOL! Yeah, you’re going to win that NFC South breezing! LOL!

Riverman

October 24th, 2012
3:41 pm

While the Falcons may lose some in the next few games it won’t be because they have all of a sudden stepped up in class. Let’s quit living in the past and get up to date, If you’re paying attention at all you’ll realize that the Eagles, Cowboys, Saints and Cardinals are no different than 95 percent of the current NFL teams: average to below average at best.

Heisenberg

October 24th, 2012
3:42 pm

All 4 of these teams have their own warts:
Philadelphia – bad decisions & turnovers by #7, that is not gonna change
Dallas here, brand name yes but way overrated and Romo is just average
at New Orleans, sure Brees can test Falcons defense but the NO defense is awful
Arizona, coming back to earth after 4-0 start and will be < 500 by time they play Falcons

Although these will not be easy, I see no reason to lose any of these. The only game where Falcons may not be favored or is a toss-up is against the Giants in December. They may not go undefeated but a loss in any other game would be an upset.

warfalcon

October 24th, 2012
3:47 pm

One game at a time,and then we count after 16.LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

October 24th, 2012
3:51 pm

Kudos, Old devil

Falcons Fan

October 24th, 2012
3:55 pm

Let’s be honest, we all want the Falcons to win enough games to make the Playoffs and then we’ll really gauge where they are as a team. The record over the last 4+ years has been a good return on investment for Season Ticket Holders who have witnessed a stockpile of regular season wins. This team won’t go 16-0 and doesn’t have to, 12-4 or 13-3 will win the division by a mile and give the team a good seed in the Playoffs. At the end of the season it won’t matter who they beat or lost to nor how much they won or lost by it’s the Playoffs we’re aiming for now as a city.

Riverman

October 24th, 2012
4:07 pm

The Falcons problem from here on is not the teams remaining on the schedule. The problem is potential injuries that could derail their season. If the pre-season did nothing else, it exposed an alarming lack of depth throughout the roster. We can see that already with the results of unexpectedly having to start Akeem Dent at MLB. We have the team to win it all in this all of a sudden mediocre NFL, but we must somehow remain pretty much injury free.

Stinger 2

October 24th, 2012
4:13 pm

I am an avid Braves fan but for the Falcons, I don`t follow the Falcons that closely. As a native Atlantan, I do root for them and hope this will be the year they leave the past disapointing playoff results behind. Smitty has done very well and I believe the team will continue to preform at a high level. As for the rest of the regular season, I predict a 12-4 finish at worst. Anything better could mean home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Ryan's dad

October 24th, 2012
4:28 pm

Right now we are two games ahead of everyone (except Chicago) so we are setting very nice for a good seed in the playoffs. Like Decoud said, statistics can be very misleading. Wins are everything, so until we lose, we have everything to be proud of with this team!

cha ching

October 24th, 2012
4:30 pm

just a fan

October 24th, 2012
4:35 pm

Wait a minute. 95 percent of the teams are average or below average??? I dont think thats possible.

BamaGuy

October 24th, 2012
4:43 pm

Saints Suck…Go Goodell

Jeff B

October 24th, 2012
4:50 pm

“Someone mentioned that the Falcons’ stats — they’re 13th in total offense, 22nd in total defense – aren’t suggestive of greatness”

Ranking teams by yards is old-fashioned. Points are what count. The Falcons are #6 in scoring and #7 in points allowed. The only other teams that are top-10 in both categories are the Bears, Texans, and Giants (barely). That’s some pretty good company!

Not so Fast

October 24th, 2012
4:57 pm

All of the 4 next games all winnable. Philly is a turnover waiting to happen. We get Arizona & Dallas at home. And New Orleans couldn’t even beat KC or Washington in their own house.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

October 24th, 2012
5:15 pm

If the O-Line and D-Line have a good game against the Eagles…..the Falcons will easily win the game. Everything else will take care of itself….

BobDawg

October 24th, 2012
5:30 pm

I think the Falcons are playing with house money in this game…. Eagles have all the pressure having fired their D-Coodinator and Vick taking heat for all the turnovers and in a must win… The Odds makers are even favoring the Northern Birds but only by 2 1/2 points and not the standard 3 for a home team… The Eagles have to win this game or they are pretty much toast for the postseason…. I like what Sick and Tired said about winning the Lines… If we do that we will should win….

Infant Falcon

October 24th, 2012
5:32 pm

Gotta peak at the right time. How do we win the division, capture home field throughout the playoffs, and keep the “edge” we need– the same edge the 2010 Packers and 2011 Giants had? Guess if I had the answer I’d be on a sideline somewhere.

SWAT Native

October 24th, 2012
5:53 pm

“You are EXACTLY what your record says you are.” Big Tuna.

Mitch Kumstein

October 24th, 2012
5:59 pm

I predict that the Falcons defense will be chasing #7 all over the place on Sunday, causing him to cough up the ball at least 3 times. Falcons win 35-14. Book it!

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

October 24th, 2012
5:59 pm

It matters not. The Chicago Bears are the best team in the NFL.

BamaStan

October 24th, 2012
6:04 pm

Atlanta Falcons = Most overated team in NFL
Bama would beat the falcons by at least twenty.
Roll Tide

playmeortrademe

October 24th, 2012
6:06 pm

I think anything other than a SB appearance at this point will be a huge disappointment for this team and the fans. They have the inside track on home field. Obviously losing in round 2 again would be an utter failure. If the NFCCG is at home, then how can a loss in that game be anything but disappointing? I think it’s “Super Bowl or Bust” now. That’s the problem with raising the bar by going 6-0.

And since 1998 still leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, I think winning the whole thing is necessary, especially if the opponent is Houston, instead of a different AFC team that would be favored just on street cred like the Steelers or Patriots.

Steve-O

October 24th, 2012
6:08 pm

Gotta love it when all SeenThisB4 has to cheer about is the Falcons MAYBE dropping to 6-1.

GregKennesaw

October 24th, 2012
6:11 pm

we know how good the aint’s are too, they are 2-4 good(BAD)!

GregKennesaw

October 24th, 2012
6:14 pm

what does that mean overrated? so they aren’t the only undefeated team? the games were a hoax?

Go miss state.

GregKennesaw

October 24th, 2012
6:15 pm

B4 also cheers when his momma makes tater tots

detritusUSA

October 24th, 2012
6:25 pm

The best team doesn’t always win the championship, the luckiest team does. I hope the Falcons continue to have the luck.

Michael M.

October 24th, 2012
6:30 pm

here are their next four games: At Philadelphia, Dallas here, at New Orleans, Arizona here…………………………….mmmmm, well ,lets see ?……….looks like they will be 10 – 0 after four more weeks to me………………don’t believe it ?……………just keep watching them………….hehehehe

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 24th, 2012
6:40 pm

“can absorb a loss or two”…

Cannot absorb the loss OF #2.

Sonny Clusters

October 24th, 2012
6:47 pm

We was noticing that the World Series is being played right now and we was wondering who is there from the AJC?

NoShamSam

October 24th, 2012
6:54 pm

We are the betting underdogs Sunday. We are the Rodney Dangerfield of football.

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 24th, 2012
7:00 pm

Clusters: Rodney Ho

Arno

October 24th, 2012
7:13 pm

They are calling Reid arrogant, #7 a turnover machine, and they just saw their DC get fired. Meanwhile at Flowery Branch, the Falcons are working on honing up fundamentals. Kind of like what we have going on down here.

Ted M

October 24th, 2012
7:17 pm

Go Zito and the Giants take down them Tigers.

Whadda Ya Know?

October 24th, 2012
7:17 pm

Falcons will break Andy Reid’s bye streak this weekend–just as they did in Kansas City where the Falcons had never won a game at Arrowhead. We need to get as much practice beating these QBs up so when we play the Breeses we can bust him up as well.

Ted M

October 24th, 2012
7:19 pm

As far as the Falcons next 4 opponents other than the Saints none of them are that good.

Red

October 24th, 2012
7:26 pm

I have been a Falcons fan since 1972 and never wavered over all the years. I can say that yes the stats and teams played don’t add up to any greatness but the way I am seeing them play is like nothing I have seen before. I see greatness – I hate to say it but they look like New Orleans and Green Bay the last couple of years…poised in the face of disaster yet keep coming back and finding a way to win…this year everything is going their way they are getting the breaks they never go before. I think it is one of those magic years where it just comes together even without the talent or stats to prove it. I always said Matty Ice was a very gifted QB but he wasn’t used correctly. He is a great short to medium thrower and now that is what he is doing and NOW I am even seeing him connect on some long balls something he has been very inept at before – the new OC has his number and has dialed him in – just keep giving him time OL. GO FALCONS!!!!

Ted M

October 24th, 2012
7:28 pm

Holy cow the Falcons have an easy schedule. The Giants and to some degree the Saints are the only good teams on their schedule.

The entire gist of your blog seems to be “you need to be tested” and the Falcons won’t be tested going into the post season…this smacks of the Falcons history (and Atlanta sports history) as repeating its ugly self.

GTPhenom

October 24th, 2012
8:02 pm

Far too early to say just how good the Falcons are. I keenly remember watching this team go 13-3, hearing all the talk about how it was the Falcons “year” to win it all, and then remember watching them get stomped at HOME against Green Bay. Until I see this team prove something in the playoffs, it’s all for naught. And right now, I don’t even think the they are as good as their record indicates. Right now, the lucky bounces are going their way, but I’ve yet to see this team have a “statement” type victory against a good team, mainly because they don’t play any good teams (outside of MAYBE the tight win against Denver, and even there, it was only PM’s second game back). I think the date to circle will be Week 15 against the Giants. Have a commanding in that game, and still have a great record at that point in the season, and we can start talking about a Super Bowl run for this team. Til then, I’m not assuming anything.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 24th, 2012
8:05 pm

“Someone mentioned that the Falcons’ stats — they’re 13th in total offense, 22nd in total defense – aren’t suggestive of greatness. Said DeCoud: “It’s not how the stat line looks. The other team could rush for 200 yards but you’ll force a fumble and take it to the house. Games come down to five or six plays.””

The Eagles have been the exact opposite of this. They have racked up plenty of offensive yards and gotten plenty of defensive stops in most of their games, but the “plays of decision” have mostly gone the other team’s way, at least in the last four weeks. Typically the law of averages says that the Falcons are bound to come back to earth and the Eagles are bound to start winning more, but we’ll see.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

October 24th, 2012
8:09 pm

philly & dallas are Ws-albeit close. Arizona is 50/50 and the Saints seem to have our # lately.

jfreak13713

October 24th, 2012
8:20 pm

First, 6-0 speaks for itself! Second, the Falconds don’t decide how good the teams are that they are playing. Third, lets not forget that the Falcons changed offense and defense coord. and that could creat some adjustment periods during the season. Fourth, tell me who is better in the NFC? I’m not saying they are the best but who is better?

The Falcons are a top 5 or so team at this point and if they get a solid running game and a solid run defense they will be a top 3 or 4 team by years end. They are 13th in offense because they haven’t run the ball very well. I expect the Falcons to wind 3 out of the next four but 2-2 record beating Cowboys and Saints is critical.

Remember, Denver, Chargers, and Washington are good teams. Two of those three will likely be playoff teams at years end!

Mike Bell 790

October 24th, 2012
8:33 pm