The Atlanta Falcons current record of 6-0 may have been dismissed by many parts of the media much to the annoyance of Falcons fans, but the NFL’s last undefeated team has still been met with some caution by fans of the team from Georgia.
There are two main reasons for this, the second, which we will come too later is this current teams recent playoff history, something that the media themselves have become a little obsessed with. The playoffs don’t start until January and therefore it is impossible for any team to improve their record in the post season at any time before then.
The first area of concern in some quarters is the quality of the 6 wins. Four of the first 6 games have been against teams from the AFC West, a division in which no team has a winning record. The Broncos and Chargers would have, had they beaten the Falcons. You can only beat the teams you are scheduled to play and no team, no matter who many wins it may have, has given up on the season after only 6 games.
Falcons’ fans were on a high after the first three games. Starting with an impressive victory on the road in Kansas City, although we now know that this Chiefs team, despite being talented in some areas is likely going to end up with losing record. Still that’s not the Falcons problem, the game still had to be won.
Second up was a team being tipped by many as a Superbowl contender, the Denver Broncos. You’d expect some kudos after beating a contender, but this seemed to have been forgotten as the Broncos also lost their next 2 games. Another question mark on the Falcons was can they win on the road? Week 3, and a trip out west to the (then) 2-0 Chargers. A dominating performance saw the Falcons to victory, 27-3. The Chargers, a team that has undoubted talent but are so inconsistent, I’m sure they’d love to have the Falcons record not just now but over the last 4 seasons.
It was the next 3 outings that really seem to turn the media against the Falcons, more so than usual.
Divisional games are normally always tough, especially at this early stage of the season. Take the lowly Cleveland Browns for example, despite their poor recent record how many times have they been blown out in a divisional game, against the good teams in the AFC North recently? They came within 2 minutes of victory against the now 5-1 Ravens in week 4. It should have come as no surprise then that the Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye would play the Falcons so close. Wins within the division are vital, no matter how they arrive.
Another road win, this time in Washington against an improving Redskins team was followed by the game that had Falcons fans, players and the media really irked. The Raiders (again coming off a bye) played the Falcons close, a little too close. You have to take your hats off to Oakland here; they coached and played a great game. In case anyone was wondering, yes, the mantra ‘Any Given Sunday’ does still apply. Let’s not forget the Cardinals beat the Patriots in Foxboro in week 2 and despite a 19 point lead the Packers lost to the Colts in week 5. I bet those two teams would have loved a sloppy, unconvincing win in those games.
The Falcons despite their perfect record are far from perfect. They need to establish something of a run game and be able to stop the run as well as improve play on both Lines.
But moving onto the real reason why no-one trusts the Falcons at this point and despite my previous arguments I can’t put a case forward for this one.
The Falcons have made the playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons. They have, on each occasion lost at the first attempt. The team and its fans will take no consolation in the fact that each of their losses have come against teams that went onto to represent the NFC in the Superbowl. Two of them, (Packers and Giants) won it and the other (Cardinals) came very close.
As mentioned previously, nothing can be done about improving this record until January and the Falcons have to make sure that they are in a position to do so by continuing to win in the regular season. As a Falcons fan you have to feel that all they need is that first playoff victory under their belt. That feeling of finally ‘getting that monkey of their back’ and they’ll be no stopping them. This Falcons fan for one is sure hoping so.
For now no team is perfect, all 32 teams have flaws, some more than others. The key is getting past those flaws to be in a position to win games. The Falcons have at least been doing that, as for the playoffs we’ll just have to wait and see.