This is You Heard It Here First – where thinking outside the box and predicting the future is a social pastime.
One of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season has been the relative parity throughout the league. There has been a prominent lack of those dominating teams that have stepped up and taken the league by storm. Week after week we have found our preconceptions about “strong” teams destroyed as team like the 49ers, Texans and Giants have looked very good and then had a week where they have looked completely flat.
That brings me to the perfect 6-0 Atlanta Falcons – the biggest frauds in the NFL today.
Yes, I know that is strong language but when it comes to this team I think it is fair. This team may be undefeated but they do not deserve to be by any means. In their six games so far, they have only truly been convincing winners in two of those games – week 1 in which they tore apart that woeful Kansas City secondary for a 40-24 victory and the demolishing in week 3 of the San Diego Chargers in which Philip Rivers was at his very worst, Ryan Mathews was just returning from injury and Matt Ryan started to make us believe he was a genuine MVP candidate.
Ok, that’s two out of six wins. What about the other four?
First off, the week 2 win against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Yeah it was obvious that Peyton wasn’t quite on his game as he threw for three interceptions in the first quarter. The Falcons should have finished that quarter better than 10-0 up though. The most telling part of this game was that Matt Ryan had several opportunities to take the game by the throat and put it beyond doubt but in this he failed. 10-0 became 20-0 before Peyton Manning threw a late TD to make it 20-7 at half time. From there on the Falcons scored just once more and allowed Manning to regain his composure and bring Denver to the brink of victory with a stirring fourth quarter comeback that fell just short. Atlanta won – because Peyton Manning ran out of time. They should have romped home easily.
If the first three weeks were the high point, the following three weeks were barely passable. Week 4 and Atlanta just barely got past a Carolina Panthers team that hadn’t looked good to that point and hasn’t looked as good since. The dreadful offensive line got completely overwhelmed in this game as Matt Ryan was sacked seven times. Throughout this game, Atlanta put up points but continued to be outplayed as a whole and doing just enough to get by. It finally got to the point where the gave up a ten point lead as Carolina went up by 1. Then the stars aligned as Cam Newton fumbled a ball which forced a punt, Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for a 59 yard reception and Mat Bryant kicked the game winning field goal with only 5 seconds remaining. Atlanta deserved to lose but somehow they squeaked out a W.
If that win was lucky, their next was plain disturbing. The Washington Redskins should have been a chance for Atlanta to re-establish their dominant passing attack as the Redskins can’t cover anybody this season. Matt Ryan did have a very good game in the end and when he needed to he marched his team down the field late to secure a victory and he finished with 345 yards through the air. What disturbs me about this game was that once again Atlanta seemed to go to sleep partway through the game and they let Washington challenge them. The defining moment was when Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game with a concussion due to a questionable late hit. Despite RG3′s departure, Washington still came within a whisker of winning thanks to a ridiculous 77 yard touchdown pass from rookie QB Kirk Cousins to veteran WR Santana Moss. Matt Ryan led the team to the point where they could get the points to win but it should never have been close and if RG3 had stayed on the field this game could have been lost very easily.
Finally we get to perhaps the worst win of all – week 6 against the Oakland Raiders. Carson Palmer seemed to dominate the Falcons defense for most of this game as he kept connecting despite Darren McFadden’s relative ineffectiveness on the ground. Oakland was actually looking comfortable for most of the first half and went into the break 13-7 up. For all that Palmer was great in the first half, Matt Ryan was terrible, giving up three early interceptions to a team that didn’t have a single pick until this game. On the day, he couldn’t get over 250 yards passing. Atlanta tightened things up with a pair of field goals in the third to tie it up but didn’t look like winning. The turning point came in the fourth as Asante Samuel returned a pick 79 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders did reply with a TD of their own but it was this play that got Atlanta playing hard again and they woke up long enough to get Mat Bryant in range for a 55 yard field goal that he nailed with 2 seconds to go. Atlanta had won again – just.
Looking at how Atlanta have played to date, they may be 6-0 but they could just as easily be 2-4. Granted, they have won the games and granted that in the end it is their record that is reflected in the overall standings. I just do not expect this to continue for the rest of this season. Looking back, Atlanta should have played so much better to this point. Don’t believe me? How about we see what ESPN’s Adam Schefter has for us:
There have been some relatively poor teams that Atlanta has faced so far. It gets much tougher from here though. The rest of the NFC East awaits in the second half as well as stronger division rivals twice each in the Saints and Buccaneers. Throw in the Detroit Lions and surprisingly tough Arizona Cardinals and this makes for a difficult stretch to finish up. Add to this that they spend all season with a home game followed by a road game and then back again and you have some very tough times ahead.
Before the season, I predicted the Falcons would go 6-10 and even with their perfect start I am still worried that this team is not legit. Call me crazy but I’m predicting they go no better than 10-6 and may only go 8-8. This Atlanta team may have won a number of games so far but that is all about to change – starting with a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the returning Michael Vick this weekend.
The Atlanta Falcons are 6-0 but they are far from perfect – I call them weak. Should Atlanta indeed struggle the rest of this season, I will not be surprised and now you won’t be either because You Heard It Here First.