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Barnwell: Will the Falcons make the playoffs?


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This is a part of a larger article by Barnwell on “Nine contenders for six spots: Sorting through wild NFC playoff field” assessing teams’ chances of making the playoffs. Falcons are an ‘Outsider’.

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Atlanta Falcons (5-4)

Chances of making the playoffs: 25.8 percent

The Falcons probably saved their season by beating the Cowboys, given that their playoff odds would have dipped below 10 percent with a home loss. Even more than the numbers might indicate, though, Dan Quinn's team showed its potential not just by winning but by how it won.

Namely, its defense finally showed up to play. On SportsCenter with SVP this past Thursday, I mentioned that the hand-wringing over the Falcons' offense and its decline under Steve Sarkisian had been overstated. Heading into Week 10, Matt Ryan & Co. were second in the league in yards per possession and eighth in points per possession.

Instead, Atlanta's defense hadn't put the offense in many favorable situations. The Falcons' offense faced the league's worst average starting field position, beginning its drives more than 76 yards away from the opposing end zone. The first-place Rams, for context, started their average drive nearly 10 yards closer to pay dirt. The defense's inability to get off the field or create big plays also had held the Falcons to a league-low 79 meaningful possessions through 10 weeks.

The Falcons' defense struggled during the regular season a year ago before taking a big leap by virtue of increased pass pressure during the postseason. The leap didn't take -- Atlanta was 26th in defensive DVOA last season and 29th after losing to the Panthers last week, but on Sunday, it finally looked like the defense that stomped all over the Seahawks and Packers in the NFC playoffs and gave the Patriots fits for most of the Super Bowl.

It was a one-man show from Adrian Clayborn, who might have earned Tyron Smith a contract extension. Clayborn racked up a staggering six sacks on Sunday, five of which came past backup Cowboys left tackle Chaz Green, who was filling in for Smith. For context, Smith had allowed a total of four sacks since the beginning of the 2016 campaign.

Two of those sacks forced Dak Prescott fumbles, creating key turnovers for a Falcons team starved of takeaways. Atlanta had just six takeaways heading into the Cowboys game, or as many as it produced during that postseason run a year 

ago. The takeaways came at the end of each half, so the Falcons didn't really have an opportunity or reason to turn them into points, but the short fields created by takeaways are the easiest way to fix a broken offense.

The offense instead showed its appreciation by doing work in the red zone. A unit that ranked 23rd in points per red zone trip heading into the game scored three touchdowns and a field goal on its four trips inside the 20, even after losing Devonta Freeman to a concussion on the offense's second snap. Ryan still left a completion here or there on the field, but when the defense held up its end of the bargain, the offense did more than enough to earn what could be a crucial win in terms of wild-card tiebreakers.

Atlanta's schedule is still pretty difficult, but with five of its six division games still to come, the Falcons could quickly rise up the NFC South ranks if they get hot. No team wants to travel to Seattle, but the Falcons might be catching the Seahawks at the right time with Richard Sherman out for the season, Earl Thomas still nursing a hamstring injury, and Duane Brown recovering from an ankle injury. Clayborn just racked up five sacks against a backup left tackle, and Green is a better player than Seahawks backup Rees Odhiambo.

The Falcons have a three-game homestand after their trip to Seattle, but two of those games are against the Vikings and Saints, who are among the best teams in football. It's not realistic to expect Clayborn to look like J.J. Watt after eating an invincibility star for the rest of the season, but if the defense starts looking like the unit from its playoff run of last season, the Falcons are still within shouting distance of mattering in the NFC.

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/page/Barnwellx171113/sorting-wild-nfc-playoff-field-week-10-2017-nfl-season-nine-contenders-six-spots

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I’d still say no.  As much fun as it is to talk about a win over a team owned by Jerry Jones I have a rough time thinking we win in Seattle.  Even with their injuries and our team looking better in the 2nd half.

Saints are legit.

Vikes will be tough.

No given against Carolina again.

Just don’t see it.

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Article is just playing with numbers.

Main problem on D has been lack of turnovers. Statistically, Falcons defense is much improved from a year ago...and will continue to get better. 

Team’s major Problem this season has been execution by our offense. Hopefully, yesterday’s perfromace over an overrated Dallas defense got some confidence back.  

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29 minutes ago, slamee101 said:

I’d still say no.  As much fun as it is to talk about a win over a team owned by Jerry Jones I have a rough time thinking we win in Seattle.  Even with their injuries and our team looking better in the 2nd half.

Saints are legit.

Vikes will be tough.

No given against Carolina again.

Just don’t see it.

I can see it. If last night was a premonition if the rest of the season like last years 2nd half season turn around then we can absolutely make the push. I don’t think we lose to Carolina at home and  I don’t think we lose twice to the saints either. I think we can take care of Seattle in Seattle. Washington did it missing 6 starters on offense with Sherman playing. I just don’t see it with the hawks. They have no running game. So the way I see it if we take last nights victory and grow from that we can close out 5-2. The 2 loses possibly coming from the Saints and vikes. But I’m not sure I even trust the vikes offense against our defense. 

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10 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Article is just playing with numbers.

Main problem on D has been lack of turnovers. Statistically, Falcons defense is much improved from a year ago...and will continue to get better. 

Team’s major Problem this season has been execution by our offense. Hopefully, yesterday’s perfromace over an overrated Dallas defense got some confidence back.  

That's funny because that is the same thing I say about people who say the defense has been good this year lol.

They showed what they can do yesterday though.

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21 minutes ago, Peyton said:

That's funny because that is the same thing I say about people who say the defense has been good this year lol.

They showed what they can do yesterday though.

I’m not saying the D has been studly great....some sloppy tackling, dumb penalties, and lack of turnovers...but anyone who has been watching games can see they’ve improved from a year ago. Frankly, right on track to where some of us thought they would be. 

@TheFatboi

The offense ...specifically more in execution than play calling...has been the bigger problem. 

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1 hour ago, slamee101 said:

I’d still say no.  As much fun as it is to talk about a win over a team owned by Jerry Jones I have a rough time thinking we win in Seattle.  Even with their injuries and our team looking better in the 2nd half.

Saints are legit.

Vikes will be tough.

No given against Carolina again.

Just don’t see it.

I don't wanna poo-poo what the Saints are doing right now.  But that defense... I'm not sold.  They're good, don't get me wrong, but they've run it up against some not so impressive offenses.  And I actually like the match-up with their offense.

Vikings are legit.  I love a Mike Zimmer defense, but they've also had a nice run against not so dynamic offenses.  

It's going to be a tough slog of games, because there isn't much room for error now, but if they can play relatively clean like I've been saying all season, they are better than anyone left on the schedule.

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Just now, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

I don't wanna poo-poo what the Saints are doing right now.  But that defense... I'm not sold.  They're good, don't get me wrong, but they've run it up against some not so impressive offenses.  And I actually like the match-up with their offense.

Vikings are legit.  I love a Mike Zimmer defense, but they've also had a nice run against not so dynamic offenses.  

It's going to be a tough slog of games, because there isn't much room for error now, but if they can play relatively clean like I've been saying all season, they are better than anyone left on the schedule.

Good post. But I feel like we could run the rest of the schedule and finish very strong

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34 minutes ago, Maverick said:

Seattle is very winnable. Seattle's defense is banged up and the Birds should have an easier time moving the ball through the air. Wilson has been playing lights out so that's going to be the hard part on defense.

Even before they got banged up they were hemmorhaging yards.  It's startling to look at the rankings and see them at 13. 

That offensive line is still a problem although they are a lot better than they were earlier in the season.  I like the match-up there and I like the match-up vs their receivers.  They are a very simple scheme.  They don't do anything particularly complex in the passing game.  That really plays into the hands of what we do defensively.

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1 minute ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

I don't wanna poo-poo what the Saints are doing right now.  But that defense... I'm not sold.  They're good, don't get me wrong, but they've run it up against some not so impressive offenses.  And I actually like the match-up with their offense.

Vikings are legit.  I love a Mike Zimmer defense, but they've also had a nice run against not so dynamic offenses.  

It's going to be a tough slog of games, because there isn't much room for error now, but if they can play relatively clean like I've been saying all season, they are better than anyone left on the schedule.

I hope that you’re right.  I may be suffering from knee-jerk reaction to the Saints game yesterday because I was taking a dump on what I thought was a suspect 6-2 record.  Bills offense is not special but l certainly expected the Saints to have a rough go yesterday and they manhandled them.

Like you, I respect a Zimmer lead D.  I’m just still nervous about our offense being back on track even though I saw a lot of good things yesterday.

I think we can play with and beat anyone left on the schedule.  It’s just will we start seeing more performances like the 2nd half yesterday from here out.

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4 minutes ago, slamee101 said:

I hope that you’re right.  I may be suffering from knee-jerk reaction to the Saints game yesterday because I was taking a dump on what I thought was a suspect 6-2 record.  Bills offense is not special but l certainly expected the Saints to have a rough go yesterday and they manhandled them.

Like you, I respect a Zimmer lead D.  I’m just still nervous about our offense being back on track even though I saw a lot of good things yesterday.

I think we can play with and beat anyone left on the schedule.  It’s just will we start seeing more performances like the 2nd half yesterday from here out.

We actually should’ve man handled buffalo too. It was a mistake filled game that we blew. Def not a loss we should’ve sustained. 

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2 minutes ago, slamee101 said:

I hope that you’re right.  I may be suffering from knee-jerk reaction to the Saints game yesterday because I was taking a dump on what I thought was a suspect 6-2 record.  Bills offense is not special but l certainly expected the Saints to have a rough go yesterday and they manhandled them.

Like you, I respect a Zimmer lead D.  I’m just still nervous about our offense being back on track even though I saw a lot of good things yesterday.

I think we can play with and beat anyone left on the schedule.  It’s just will we start seeing more performances like the 2nd half yesterday from here out.

Yeah, that is the variable in this equation and the thing that's been so frustrating this season.  You're just not sure which Atlanta is going to show up.  And they've still got some issues.  Dallas was straight manhandling the offensive line yesterday for stretches.

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The Turnovers have been there. They've just been negated by penalties. We had another pick by Tru negated yesterday. By my count, that's at least 3. Add in the INTs that have bounced off of Sanu, Jones, and Hooper's hands, and it's no wonder we've lost 4 games.

 

If they get the penalties cleaned up, and they catch the ball, we'll be fine. The Hooper INT vs MIA lost the game.

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2 hours ago, slamee101 said:

I’d still say no.  As much fun as it is to talk about a win over a team owned by Jerry Jones I have a rough time thinking we win in Seattle.  Even with their injuries and our team looking better in the 2nd half.

Saints are legit.

Vikes will be tough.

No given against Carolina again.

Just don’t see it.

This team has the talent, in fact top-to-bottom this team probably has the most talent in the NFL. If the defense can stay hot and the offense can just not screw up this team can go into Seattle and beat them like a drum.

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1 hour ago, TheFatboi said:

I can see it. If last night was a premonition if the rest of the season like last years 2nd half season turn around then we can absolutely make the push. I don’t think we lose to Carolina at home and  I don’t think we lose twice to the saints either. I think we can take care of Seattle in Seattle. Washington did it missing 6 starters on offense with Sherman playing. I just don’t see it with the hawks. They have no running game. So the way I see it if we take last nights victory and grow from that we can close out 5-2. The 2 loses possibly coming from the Saints and vikes. But I’m not sure I even trust the vikes offense against our defense. 

The only way we lose to Seattle is TOers.

If our offense turns up like it did last night I think we'll eat Seattle up.

DQ knows exactly what to expect so there wont be anything new thay'll be bringing to the table.

Saints and Vikings are the games that will define how deep this team goes this year.

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2 hours ago, Vandy said:

Article is just playing with numbers.

Main problem on D has been lack of turnovers. Statistically, Falcons defense is much improved from a year ago...and will continue to get better. 

Team’s major Problem this season has been execution by our offense. Hopefully, yesterday’s perfromace over an overrated Dallas defense got some confidence back.  

My bolding. 

Nail, head, boom, Vandy. 

I think Barnwell (and many others) have the chicken/egg thing backwards. Part of the reason our D has had trouble getting off the field is that the offense hasn't been sustaining drives. The D is getting gassed in most of our games (particularly against Carolina). 

 

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Gotta hit Wilson. Yesterday this defense hit Prescott hard and often. He was all out of sorts. Same with what they did to Rodgers. I still can't believe, even after the beating he took, Dallas was running the option with Prescott. 

If the defense can take advantage of that offensive line, watch out. If not...ugh.

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1 hour ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Even before they got banged up they were hemmorhaging yards.  It's startling to look at the rankings and see them at 13. 

That offensive line is still a problem although they are a lot better than they were earlier in the season.  I like the match-up there and I like the match-up vs their receivers.  They are a very simple scheme.  They don't do anything particularly complex in the passing game.  That really plays into the hands of what we do defensively.

Agreed. If they can keep Wilson contained in the pocket, the defense should have success. The only place they could probably exploit a matchup is with Graham, but I feel like our LBs can run with him. I like the Falcons chances a lot in this game.

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We definitely have a good shot at running the table. Newton has given us trouble at times no doubt, but we still have played other mobile QBs fairly well and just need our own offense to get going early to avoid those types of teams sticking to the read-option looks. Make them throw and win it like last year. Boils down to our offense coming out early and staying hot. That's how we destroyed people last year and it's been the difference so far this season.

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1 hour ago, slimjim said:

We definitely have a good shot at running the table. Newton has given us trouble at times no doubt, but we still have played other mobile QBs fairly well and just need our own offense to get going early to avoid those types of teams sticking to the read-option looks. Make them throw and win it like last year. Boils down to our offense coming out early and staying hot. That's how we destroyed people last year and it's been the difference so far this season.

If they could just keep that chicken legged freak of nature from running wild....they will have a chance.

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