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Nfc Playoffs Q&a: It Gets Better

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1. What team is under the most pressure?When you are 0-3 in playoff games like Mike Smith and Matt Ryan, you worry. Ryan spent the offseason trying to get better in road games in order to have home-field advantage. The strategy worked. The Falcons were 6-2 on the road and won 13 games to clinch home-field advantage. Now it's up to Smith to convert this opportunity into a playoff win. Over the past five years, the Falcons are second only to New England in regular-season home victories with 33. Yet this year, the Falcons average 24.5 points a game at home compared with 27.9 on the road. Strange. Ryan completed 71.9 percent of his passes on the road but only 65.1 percent in the Georgia Dome. He had 21 touchdown passes on the road compared with 11 at home. Because of that, the Falcons have had six home games decided by six points or fewer. They won five of those games. During his first four years, Ryan completed 64.8 percent of his passes in home games and 58 percent on the road. While this year's home stats may be alarming, Ryan's history is to do well at home. But the pressure is on to win this home game.

2. What trend do the Falcons fall into as a No. 1 seed playing the league's easiest schedule? Schedule is everything in the NFL, and the Falcons benefited by playing the league's easiest schedule. They won 13 games against a schedule with a .422 opponent winning percentage, a schedule that featured teams with combined records of 108-148. The good news for the Falcons is that of the past five times a team was the No. 1 seed after facing the league's easiest schedule, four made it to the Super Bowl. The St. Louis Rams parlayed a schedule with a .375 opponent winning percentage in 1999 to a Super Bowl victory over Tennessee. That was the third-easiest schedule in NFL history. The 2005 Seattle Seahawks, 2006Chicago Bears and 2009 New Orleans Saints had the easiest schedule and made it to the Super Bowl. Only the 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers failed to convert. That Steelers team lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. All five of those teams went 13-3 during the regular season, like this year's Falcons. For what it's worth, the Falcons were 3-0 against teams with winning records in 2012.

3. What is the biggest challenge for Atlanta? Stopping the Seahawks' complicated running offense. Wilson is an early master of the zone-read plays. He can gain yards with his feet or get the ball to running backs Lynch and Robert Turbin. Stopping the run isn't one of the Falcons' specialties. They give up 123.2 rushing yards a game and staggering 4.8 yards a carry. It helps that the Falcons' defense had the bye week to get healthy. Its efforts this week will be concentrated on stopping the Seahawks' run game. The Falcons have had two games against the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton and one against RG III of the Redskins, so they are experienced to some degree in stopping read-options and pistol offenses. Figure this to be a close game. The Seahawks put up 224 rushing yards on the Redskins.

10. Who is going to be in the NFC Championship Game? Even though home teams have controlled the opening rounds of the playoffs, I could see the Green Bay Packers getting a win in San Francisco and the Falcons finally ending their home playoff problems. That would put the Packers against the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. That's fitting. Rodgers and Ryan were the top two quarterbacks in the NFC in my opinion. It's a quarterback-driven league. Don't count out the Packers and Rodgers getting to the Super Bowl.

You can read full article here, but I only grabbed most important points regarding The Falcons.


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