Tampa — The Falcons are 9-1, but by my reckoning they’ve played one really good game in their past seven. (The one: At Philadelphia ahead of Hurricane Sandy.) Then again, they’ve won five of those six not-really-good games, so what’s the problem?
This: A team wants to be playing well in December, so as to keep playing well into January/February. The Falcons know this better than anyone, having seen consecutive seasons ended by teams that weren’t, as of Thanksgiving, anywhere near locks to qualify for postseason fun and frolic. We know already that these Falcons will make the playoffs. What we don’t know is if they’ll fare any better once there.
Today marks Game 1 of a loaded (and shortened) week. They play the Buccaneers, who’ve won four in a row, and then they play the Saints, who’ve won five of six, on Thursday night. Sweep the week and we won’t be quibbling, at least not so much. Get swept and the carping will be unconfined.
Confession: A couple of weeks back, I suggested this would be the venue for the Falcons’ first loss. As we know, the Saints interceded. Part of me thinks the Falcons are pointing toward this game as another checkpoint, same as they were the game in Philly. Then again, they wanted badly to win in the Superdome, and they didn’t. So here’s what I’m saying, kind of:
If the Falcons are as good as they (and I) think they are, they’ll win this one. But they can’t beat Tampa Bay by half-stepping, or by turning it over six times. They’ll have to play well, and it has been a while since they’ve managed that.
Whatever happens, I’ll be here to watch and comment, and I’d appreciate the company. And I thank you, as ever, in advance.
By Mark Bradley