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Here you go:

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.

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It was written by Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders, a site I've never heard of...

Another ESPN guy bashing the Falcons, show me something I haven't seen before. As Asante says, and it's now my mantra until our playoff win...

"We love the haters, man," said Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had the first of two interceptions against Eli Manning. "The haters keep us going. So keep your hate coming. We love it. It makes us play with a chip on our shoulder."

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That was pretty weak.

And I love how no one ever mentions that we played the Cardinals and Raiders after their bye weeks. Yeah, those aren't great teams but how much you wanna bet those games wouldn't have been nearly as close if those teams didn't have two weeks to get ready for us?

Edited by Firstiary
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"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."

We beat Philly by 13 in Philly. So this statement isn't even valid. And what about those convincing wins over good teams? Redskins, Broncos, Giants?!?

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The funny thing is that they shroud themselves in numbers and tables of "other lucky teams" that failed in the postseason. They fail to include the teams that somehow managed to overcome these "problems" to win the whole thing. The closest team to this Falcons team historically is actually the 2006 Colts. But that can't be, because...the Colts won the Super Bowl that year! They couldn't stop the run. They couldn't run the ball. Their QB couldn't win big games. Their coach was "too conservative". The numbers said they were a team who was not as good as their record (12-4). They "out-performed" their expected win total by close to 3 wins, but you won't see them on that list because having them on their would not support the gibberish that Football Outsiders is trying to peddle.

Another team that more closely resembles this Falcons team is the 2003 Patriots. They outperformed their record by close to 3 wins, but managed to take such a shabby 14-2 team and lo and behold...won the Super Bowl!

These guys pose opinion as FACT because they accompany it with stats. When they are wrong, they just wash their hands of the outcome and claim that "this is unprecedented, and fluky" because the numbers they chose to use didn't support it. It means nothing. The New York Giants got outscored last season! They won the Super Bowl! To say the Falcons are "not legit" is ridiculous!

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Did this guy just seriously say that four of our wins came off of luck from soft scheduling? I mostly agree with articles criticizing the Falcons because usually it is true and honest from an outside perspective but this is just terrible.

I stopped reading when it said "Random Turnovers". So all turnovers are randomly the fault of the team that turned the ball over. Scheme, technique nor shear physicality had nothing to do with how a turnover took place?

That article is written by a baffoon who's argument is weak.

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"The computer says the Falcons have no chance."

Maybe not, but we really should play the games anyway, just to make sure.

Take it from someone who makes his living in IT . . . computer analysis like this are total jokes. They are rather like weather prediction models – right except when they are not. (How often are weather predictions correct? 100% of the time. Hey, they didn't say it was or wasn't going to rain, they said there was a 30% chance of it. You see?) Like weather models, these sports models analyze past similar conditions and make predictions based on past results. The weights assigned to various factors are, at best, subjective.

Weather models, however, have a higher degree of confidence. The weather isn't going to consciously change its strategy or substitute one cold front for another in anticipation of what's expected.

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