Who knew that 13 weeks into the season the Atlanta Falcons would be the best team in the NFC?
In the preseason? Many.
Before the season started, some analysts picked the Falcons to represent the NFC in the SB and while others didn’t expect them to make THAT big of a leap, they were expected to do damage with the weapons they have on offense. If you add to that the addition of Mike Nolan and Dirk Kottier in the offseason, two coaches that know how to utilize talented players, and there weren’t too many reasons why analysts shouldn’t be on the bandwagon.
Now we’re towards the end of the season, and the Falcons sit atop the NFC, as some predicted, but many columnists don’t believe in Atlanta’s 11-1 record. As a matter of fact, you could say no one outside of Georgia even respects it. Our wins haven’t been all that convincing in most people’s eyes, and pessimists are quick to point out that our 0-3 playoff record speaks for itself, disregarding all Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff, and Matt Ryan have accomplished their five-year tenure under Arthur Blank.
The 49ers, Ravens, Green Bay, and Chicago all seem to garner more respect than the Falcons, despite having more losses. If the playoffs started today, I’m positively sure that each of the teams I mentioned would be favored to make a run over the Falcons in the mainstream media.
Me personally, I don’t think the regular season is about blowing out inferior or evenly-matched opponents. The purpose of the entire season is to win the Super Bowl. You don’t win it based on how you blowout teams during the regular season. Besides, blowing out teams has never been Mike Smith’s style, his coaching style is too conservative. It’s worked so far…He has 53 wins in 75 games, that’s a little over 70% of his games. It hasn’t translated to the post season yet, but when I think about the Falcons playoff slump, I think about a quote from Vince Lombardi
Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.
Despite their post-season woes, they continue to work hard and they continue to win. That’s pretty admirable, and I’m not saying that to be a homer. It’s one of the reasons I admire Peyton Manning, it’s also the same reason I admire Matt Ryan and Smitty. They continue to win despite not being favored in media outlets. They’re sprinting to the playoffs while some teams are focused on trying to play consistent football long enough to make the playoffs.
The purpose of the regular season is to make the playoffs, preferably with home-field advantage. No, home-field advantage doesn’t guarantee a win, but what team doesn’t want an extra bye-week and a opportunity to perform in front of their home crowd?
So seeing from that angle, 11-1 is exactly what it is….11-1. This is not the BCS, so I find it absurd when analysts mention strength of schedule as the reason the Falcons record isn’t respected. What does that even mean in a professional league with professional coaches and world-class athletes? I’ll tell you what it means…
Not a damn thing.
I looked at the ESPN Power Rankings yesterday to see if anything positive was said about the Falcons record, but ESPN decided to quote Mike Sando who stated…
The Falcons have played the NFL’s easiest schedule to date by far (.389).
I thought winning games would get you respect in any league. I guess it’s not enough, not anymore. I understand that Atlanta is a city that doesn’t have a history of winning, and the Falcons are not as storied a franchise as the Bears, Packers, or the 49ers. But, is it too late to start now? I hope Mike Smith and Matt Ryan answer this question soon. I’m tired of Atlanta teams not being respected and I’m sick of Atlanta not being respected as a sports city, I hope the rest of the fans are too.
The playoffs can’t come soon enough.