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Breaking it down, Falcons still have good shot at wild card


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Breaking it down, Falcons still have good shot at wild card

November 18, 2009, by Jeff Schultz

Don't worry, Arthur. I think your team might still make it.

Not that there isn’t reason to be concerned about the Falcons, what with Matt Ryan struggling, and Michael Turner hobbling, and the defense never being that good to begin with, even before injuries.

But have you looked around? I just did.

For sake of argument, let’s give the four divisions in the NFC to New Orleans (South), Minnesota (North), Dallas (East) and Arizona (West). That leaves up to seven teams (I’m being generous) vying for two wild card berths in the conference. It’s way too early to get into tiebreaker scenarios, although it’s worth noting that losing to the New York Giants Sunday hurts the Falcons in head-to-head. But you know what? The Giants may not even get that far.

Here’s the breakdown. I’m listing the teams in order of how I would rank their wild card chances.

♦ Green Bay (5-4): I’m betting the Packers are in. They have a relatively easy schedule with one very difficult game (at Pittsburgh). The others: San Francisco, at Detroit, Baltimore, at Chicago, Seattle, at Arizona. Simplified projection: 5-2 and a final record of 10-6. Yes, Green Bay lost to Tampa Bay two weeks ago. But it bounced back to beat Dallas last week, and that team probably is closer to reality. The Packers are a solid team and they’re through the toughest part of their schedule — no more games against Brett Favre.

♦ Falcons (5-4): Of their seven remaining games, four are against bad to less-than-average teams (two against Tampa Bay, Buffalo, at the New York Jets) and three against good teams (at New York Giants, Philadelphia, New Orleans). That’s 9-7 in an oversimplified world. We can break this down a hundred ways, but the Falcons were not built to win low-scoring games. With Michael Turner out for one to seven weeks — I’m covering myself, because you’re not going to get an honest answer from anybody in Flowery Branch – the onus is on Ryan and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to win games. I still think they’ve got a pretty good shot.

♦ N.Y. Giants (5-4): Hard to imagine but there’s a pretty good chance the Super Bowl champions from only two years ago may not make the playoffs. Their performance against the Falcons coming off the bye week will be interesting. Their defense has fallen apart. They’ve lost four straight, allowing 133 points (average: 33.2) in that span. They’ve already lost as many games as all of last year (12-4). The only other two times they lost four straight under coach Tom Coughlin, they missed the playoffs (2004 and 2006). The remaining schedule is about on the level of the Falcons’, maybe a little tougher: (Atlanta, at Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, at Washington, Carolina, at Minnesota). Simplified projection: 4-3 the rest of the way, 9-7 in the end.

♦ Philadelphia (5-4): Could the Giants and Eagles both miss the playoffs? It doesn’t seem plausible. But Philly probably will have to do without running back Brian Westbrook the rest of the season. He just got his second concussion in four weeks, and this is when you start getting into something that can’t be fixed with trainers tape and a shot. For the Eagles to recover from that loss, they need rookie LeSean “Shady” McCoy to do all the things Westbrook does: run, catch, block. He’s not there yet. The remaining schedule is about like the Falcons: at Chicago, Washington, at Falcons, at Giants, San Francisco, Denver, at Dallas. Simplified projection: 4-3 the rest of the way, 9-7 in the end.

♦ Carolina (4-5): The Falcons had multiple opportunities to win the game Sunday. The Panthers are helped by a great running back (DeAngelo Williams) and the fact quarterback Jake Delhomme has cut down on interceptions, but it’s still a very average team with a less-than-average defense. Even Jason Snelling, the Falcons’ third-best tailback, ran the ball effectively against them. And look at the last four games on the Panthers’ schedule: at New England, Minnesota, at New York Giants, New Orleans. (The other three: Miami, at New York Jets, Tampa Bay.) Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

♦ San Francisco (4-5): The 49ers play hard, largely because they’re scared to death of Mike Singletary. They’re just not that good. The offense ranks 27th overall, the defense is 29th against the pass. Remember, the Falcons tore this team apart. Remaining games: at Green Bay, Jacksonville, at Seattle, Arizona, at Philadelphia, Detroit, at St. Louis). Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

♦ Chicago (4-5): I just can’t see quarterback Jay Cutler leading the Bears anywhere except into the ground. He threw five interceptions last week and leads the NFL with 17. The Bears’ defense is solid but not nearly as effective without Brian Urlacher. The remaining schedule is difficult: Philadelphia, at Minnesota, St. Louis, Green Bay, at Baltimore, Minnesota, at Detroit. Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

So there’s my ranking. Agree or disagree?

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I see how he came up with that conclusion, but Green Bay runs hot and cold too much for my blood, the same goes for the Eagles, I can see a late surge by the Panties though, but that is a big maybe. We have a good chance, but we just need to win some games 4 real and get this offense together.

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Were not making the playoffs. People dont understand how huge last week loss vs Panthers was. We will not go into Giant stadium and beat the Giants we are terrible on the road, we never come up big in big spots on road.

You are right, we are bad on the road. However, I am going to stay optimistic.

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It will be a tough sell at 9-7.

I still think we need to win at least one of our three remaining "tough games". Yes, it hinges a lot on how Phil and NY play the rest of the year but anything below 10-6 relies too much on that for my tastes. Being at the mercy of tie breakers, common opponents, etc. going into the playoffs just leaves a lot to be desired.

Definitely possible at 9-7, but nearly a sure thing at 10-6. Lets hope for at least one lights out performance against NO, NY, or Philly to solidify a playoff berth. ;)

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Were not making the playoffs. People dont understand how huge last week loss vs Panthers was. We will not go into Giant stadium and beat the Giants we are terrible on the road, we never come up big in big spots on road.

Its still a a bit early to count us out, dont you think?

We have shown the ability to stay in every game we have lost this season but the execution just hasnt been there. Our road record IS pretty abysmal but look at the teams we have played on the road and not just whether the game was home/away.

I am with you though, we need to be a better road team and prove we have the fortitude to win tough games away from the Dome. Wild Card berth and bad road play is not a good combination in the NFL.

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Were not making the playoffs. People dont understand how huge last week loss vs Panthers was. We will not go into Giant stadium and beat the Giants we are terrible on the road, we never come up big in big spots on road.

Stop crying Swiftie, it is still to early to tell and we have a good chance of making the playoffs.

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Its still a a bit early to count us out, dont you think?

We have shown the ability to stay in every game we have lost this season but the execution just hasnt been there. Our road record IS pretty abysmal but look at the teams we have played on the road and not just whether the game was home/away.

I am with you though, we need to be a better road team and prove we have the fortitude to win tough games away from the Dome. Wild Card berth and bad road play is not a good combination in the NFL.

This team can show me something this week with a win vs the Giants who are desperate as well..The kid Ryan will have to show me something if we throw this game on his back and he leads us to a win . We need some defensive players to step up this week . Abraham needs to have a breakout game with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. We need Coleman or Decoud to get a turnover.

I expect Norwood to be back so his explosiveness and big play threat will be a nice addition on the field to see

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This team can show me something this week with a win vs the Giants who are desperate as well..The kid Ryan will have to show me something if we throw this game on his back and he leads us to a win . We need some defensive players to step up this week . Abraham needs to have a breakout game with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. We need Coleman or Decoud to get a turnover.

I expect Norwood to be back so his explosiveness and big play threat will be a nice addition on the field to see

Setting expectations too high is what leads to unrealistic views about the quality of our team. You should know this by now. ;)

That being said, I am hoping for more efficient QB play and better rushing defense against the Giants. All those specifics about which players needs to do what would be nice too, but is hardly necessary if we go up there and play well as a team.

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This team can show me something this week with a win vs the Giants who are desperate as well..The kid Ryan will have to show me something if we throw this game on his back and he leads us to a win . We need some defensive players to step up this week . Abraham needs to have a breakout game with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. We need Coleman or Decoud to get a turnover.

I expect Norwood to be back so his explosiveness and big play threat will be a nice addition on the field to see

Hopefully they can do all of this so you can stop crying LOL

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