Very impressive, like I said before, those guys are a different animal when they play at home. As you know, this won't be the case if the play the Falcons. They have an unimpressive road record(3-5) and have yet to win a game in a dome.
They're also gonna be without a starting CB who will start serving a 4 game suspension next week. I don't see them stopping White, Jones and Gonzo when they're short handed in the secondary.
I still think the only team that could win in Atlanta is the Packers. If for no other reason, AR can get hot and we might not be able to match them score for score.
Sherman may not or may not be suspended, depending on how his appeal goes. Even so, being down one CB is not going to kill them when they've got two good safeties, and a pretty solid pass rush. The bigger thing I would worry about in playing them is Atlanta's defending of Marshawn Lynch/Russell Wilson. Atlanta's defense has been money at forcing turnovers against pocket QBs but haven't been nearly as successful against mobile QBs. But this is a biased Panther fan talking so what do I know....
But then again, there's also this article by Football Outsiders that doesn't like the Falcons chances.
After a season full of nail-biters, the Atlanta Falcons finally got a blowout win Sunday, stomping the New York Giants 34-0. They outgained the Giants in total offense (394 to 256), first downs (22 to 10) and also forced more turnovers (three to zero). It was the first time this year the Falcons have thoroughly outplayed a quality opponent. It was not, however, a "statement" win. It was just one game in a long season, and a clear outlier at that, not a new standard of excellence.
Atlanta was outside the top 10 last week in Football Outsiders' rankings, and one game out of 14 won't change that too much. Even if you're not a believer in Football Outsiders' methods, recent history is full of so-called "statement" games that didn't say much about either team when all was said and done.
The Falcons stand at 12-2 after Sunday's win, but Football Outsiders' system estimates that they "should" have won only about eight of those games, with four extra victories coming through luck in the form of soft scheduling, random turnovers or other factors. That's rarefied air when it comes to overachievement. Since 1991, 11 other teams have finished with winning records and at least three more actual wins than estimated wins. A quick look back at those overachievers paints an ominous picture for this year's Falcons:
Overachieving teams, 1991-2011
Year Team Actual Wins Estimated Wins Difference Fate Playoff wins 1992 IND 9 5.5 3.5 Missed Playoffs 0 1993 DET 10 7.0 3.0 Lost wild-card game 0 1996 MIN 9 5.7 3.3 Lost wild-card game 0 1998 ARI 9 5.8 3.2 Lost divisional round 1 1999 IND 13 9.5 3.5 Lost divisional round 0 2001 CHI 13 9.6 3.4 Lost divisional round 0 2002 GB 12 9.0 3.0 Lost wild-card game 0 2003 CAR 11 7.7 3.3 Lost Super Bowl 3 2003 STL 12 8.2 3.8 Lost divisional round 0 2004 ATL 11 7.7 3.3 Lost conference championship 1 2006 SEA 9 5.4 3.6 Lost divisional round 1
As the table shows, only two of these 11 teams reached the conference title game and only two others won even one playoff game. The other seven either missed the playoffs outright or went one-and-done, including some teams whose first game came at home after a first-round bye. The most recent team to suffer that fate: the 2003 St. Louis Rams, who went 12-4 but lost their first playoff game at home to Carolina. That Carolina team, it's worth noting, also overachieved, and was far and away the most successful of the bunch once the playoffs started.
Why are the Falcons so low in FO's rankings? Though they've lost only two games, they've been in severe danger of losing many others. Seven of their wins have come by eight points or fewer, and many of those have come over bottom dwellers such as Oakland, Philadelphia and Arizona. They should be scolded, not celebrated, for a three-point comeback win at home over the lowly Raiders, a team that has lost to the Dolphins, Broncos, Ravens, Saints and Bengals by at least 20 points apiece.
Atlanta has been particularly weak in the running game, on both sides of the ball. The Falcons have averaged only 3.7 yards per carry on their own rushes (29th in the league), but given up 4.9 yards per carry on opponents' runs (30th).
Some people reading this (many of them, no doubt, residing in the 404 area code) will insist that the Falcons have the best record in the NFC, and that means they're the best team in the NFC, fancy computer numbers be damned. Even those readers, though, should take caution and not get overly excited by one game. Recent history is littered with teams that made "statements" by beating playoff-bound teams in December, then fell flat on their face in the playoffs:
• In 2008, the Steelers were the victims of a "statement" win, losing 31-14 to Tennessee in Week 16. The Titans finished 13-3 but lost their first playoff game to Baltimore. The Steelers finished 12-4 and won the Super Bowl.
• The 2010 Patriots won 14 games, including victories over playoff-bound Jets and Bears teams in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 81-10. They then lost their first playoff game, at home, to the Jets.
• Last year, a pair of NFC teams made "statement" December wins before going up in smoke. The Saints crushed Atlanta 45-16 on their way to a 13-3 mark, and the 49ers manhandled Pittsburgh and also went 13-3. The Saints beat the Lions in the postseason, but were promptly beaten by the 49ers, who in turn were beaten by the Giants.
Games like that make Atlanta's win Sunday seem much less relevant. It was the best game the Falcons have played this year, but that, by definition, makes it the fluke, not the standard. It was an important win for the Falcons because it brought them one step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But it would be a mistake to think they're significantly better now than they were one week ago.