• Of Note (Week 17, 2012)

    Every Tuesday, we’ll recap the previous week with a few things of note. Sometimes the obvious is the most interesting, while we’ll try and mix in a surprise or two along the way…

    So the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons are not only the No. 1 playoff seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively, John Fox’s and Mike Smith’s teams are co-owners of the league’s best win-loss record in 2012 at 13-3. Both the Broncos and Falcons will be looking to end an eight-year streak in the league where the team with the best record in the NFL has not won the Super Bowl. The last team to finish the season with the league’s best mark was the 2003 New England Patriots, who were 14-2 enroute to winning Super Bowl XXXVIII…

    Last week, there were 5 teams that entered the final Sunday unbeaten in their division. But the Texans lost at Indianapolis, the Packers fell to Minnesota and the Rams were defeated at Seattle. That means the Patriots and Broncos were the only teams to go unbeaten vs. the divisional brethren in 2012. It also kept an odd streak alive; dating back to the merger in 1970, there’s never been more than 2 teams finish unbeaten within their division in the same season…

    For the second time in 3 seasons, 13 of the 32 teams in the NFL won at least 10 games. But it was certainly hit-or-miss in the AFC, where all 6 playoff clubs (Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Texans, Colts and Broncos) were in double-digits in the victory column. On the other hand, 7 of the remaining 10 teams in the conference lost at least 10 games, including the 2-14 Jaguars and Chiefs, tied for the worst record in the league in 2012. Some of that was also due to the AFC’s record vs. the NFC this season, the latter forging a 39-25 advantage in the head-to-head meetings between the conferences…

    The NFC South was seemingly the Falcons’ division to win about a month into the season and Mike Smith’s club did “edge” out the Panthers, Saints and Buccaneers by 6 games. But it’s also worth pointing out that all 4 teams went 3-3 within the division this season. And in the case of Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, which all finished 7-9, it’s interesting to not their season point differentials, the Panthers minus-6, the Saints plus- and the Bucs minus-5. But the bottom line here is that the Falcons’ win meant that the Saints were dethroned as champions of the NFC South, the only division in the league that has yet to have a repeat champion since the league was realigned in 2002…

    And back to Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the former Colts’ signal-caller will enter the 2012 postseason with the best defense, statistically, that he has ever played with. Denver finished second overall in total yards allowed in 2012, ranking third against both the run and the pass. In his 13 seasons on the field with Indianapolis, Manning’s Colts finished eighth in 2002 and third in 2007, the only 2 times the club was ranked in the Top 10 in total defense. And as for the Colts’ run defense those same seasons, its best showing was in ’07 when the unit was a mediocre 15th in rushing yards allowed. Then again, the lone season Manning and the Colts won the Super Bowl together was in 2006, when Indianapolis finished dead last in the NFL against the run…

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Thanks Russell! Informative as always!

      Of the Falcons' three division losses, only one is really a competitive result. The loss in New Orleans was a legitimate, on-the-field loss in a stadium where they've always had problems. The losses to Carolina and Tampa were careless errors. With the division safely in hand, they pretty much didn't care about Carolina because the Giants game was the next week. And the Bucs loss was a lukewarm affair on the last day of the season.

      It's interesting how the playoffs can change the perception of a team. Last year it was the Giants. I wonder which, if any, teams will benefit from winning a couple or more games in this post-season?

      Given all the nay-saying about the Falcons, I have a feeling they might be the one. For perfectly understandable reasons, most people think they'll be one-and-done. If you don't think this rankles a pretty good football team, you'd have to think again.

      It won't be the Redskins, even if they beat an excellent Seattle. Washington has already scored its allotment of public opinion points. Except for one notable exception on this board of ours, most folks are impressed by what they've done.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      Of the Falcons' three division losses, only one is really a competitive result. The loss in New Orleans was a legitimate, on-the-field loss in a stadium where they've always had problems. The losses to Carolina and Tampa were careless errors. With the division safely in hand, they pretty much didn't care about Carolina because the Giants game was the next week. And the Bucs loss was a lukewarm affair on the last day of the season.
      But they won close games they shouldn't have against both the Panthers and Bucs. The Falcons Point differntial corresponds to a 10.6 win team, not a mighty 13-3 juggernaut. Part of that might be atrtibutable to Matt Ryan (elite and good QBs generally win more games than pythagoras would say), but they have a very bad run defense, and no ability to control time of possession with their own run game.

      Even their 1 big win against the Giants is more suspect now that we saw the demise of the Gmen.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      The Gmen demise was arguably the result of what the Falcons did to them.

      Why do you say they shouldn't have beaten the Bucs? A very nice comeback drive engineered by Ryan. That clutch drive -- especially a 3rd down pass IIRC -- is what proved to me that there's something different about this Falcons team. And remember, the Falcons missed a chip-shot FG early.

      Both were tough, close games. There's a phrase that describes this kind of contest: "divisional game." And there's a word that describes a team which wins such games: "winner."

      They have an average run defense. The stats are a bit misleading. Look at the rush-against attempts: the Falcons are 23rd. I would suggest this means teams were behind and throwing a lot, and the yards on the ground weren't always important. The Falcons secondary and pass rush have been bigger question marks. They really, really need John Abraham's ankle to heal.

      I agree, the rush attack is highly suspect. The only good thing is that, at times, Michael Turner has looked like his old self late in the season. He hasn't been over-used so he may have his legs for the playoffs. I would also note that a number of very good playoff teams are in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing yards per game.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      THey barely beat the Raiders. At home iirc .

      They scored 2 points in the playoffs last year. It took Drew Brees worst game of his career to beat the Saints.

      It's not the one and dones. It's how they've lost. They've earned the doubt they are getting. Are they above average? Yes. But they aren't nearly what their record implies. Imho of course
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      The Falcons remind of Schottenheimer's Chiefs teams. They seemed to usually make the playoffs - sometimes with gaudy records - only to flame out in the first round.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
      The Falcons remind of Schottenheimer's Chiefs teams. They seemed to usually make the playoffs - sometimes with gaudy records - only to flame out in the first round.
      Good point. On Paper, there really is no reason to doubt them, but I think most fans are done expecting them, and now are in the wait and see. Unfair? probably, but it is what it is.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Well, that gets back to a point I've made a couple of times. People love their patterns. Until the Falcons show that the pattern doesn't apply, people will cling to it. And our love of patterns is so deep that the Falcons will probably have to win 2-3 playoff games to change perceptions.

      I said before the season that Mike Smith was on a subtle hot seat. If he again fails to win a playoff game, I can see changes coming.

      I believe that this organization is pretty keyed-up to prove everyone wrong. Sometimes coaches have to work at creating an "us against the world" mentality. For this Falcons team, all they have to do is read the papers. This love of patterns is helping energize the team, I believe.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      Well, that gets back to a point I've made a couple of times. People love their patterns. Until the Falcons show that the pattern doesn't apply, people will cling to it. And our love of patterns is so deep that the Falcons will probably have to win 2-3 playoff games to change perceptions.

      I said before the season that Mike Smith was on a subtle hot seat. If he again fails to win a playoff game, I can see changes coming.

      I believe that this organization is pretty keyed-up to prove everyone wrong. Sometimes coaches have to work at creating an "us against the world" mentality. For this Falcons team, all they have to do is read the papers. This love of patterns is helping energize the team, I believe.
      There is some of what you say, regarding patterns. There is also the fact that Matt Ryan was very hyped when he put in his rookie season. He's gotten alot more love than his co-draftee, Joe Flacco. I can personally attest that the nicknames and all the love this kid has gotten is one reason why I dislike this team. It's a personal bias, and maybe I do hold on too it too much. But he has given me no reason to change that bias. Over hyped, under-perfoming QBs (and he has underperformed in the playoffs) really effing annoy me.
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