It looks like Andy Reid's perfect record coming off of the bye week is in serious jeopardy this weekend. When the Eagles return to action on Sunday, they'll be hosting the only undefeated team left standing in the NFL. That said, are the Atlanta Falcons really the big, bad unbeaten their record would make it seem?
There are two aspects of the Falcons' 6-0 record we want to examine at here: strength of schedule and margin of victory.
First of all, where are the quality opponents? Atlanta has not beaten a single team with a record over .500. Denver and San Diego have maybe presented the toughest challenges yet, and both clubs are only 3-3. The Falcons have taken down the 3-4 Redskins, too, but the rest of their wins have come at the expense of bad teams -- Kansas City, Carolina, and Oakland.
Give them credit, because good teams are supposed to beat bad teams. Plus, the truth of the matter is there are not a lot of elite teams in the NFL at the moment in terms of record, so topping great quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III still reflects well. To put Atlanta's slate in perspective though, there are only four one-win teams remaining, and the Falcons have played two of them (KC, CAR).
So maybe the Falcons have had opportunities to pad their win total a bit. They've still looked very impressive along the way, no?
Not really -- at least not entirely. Actually, the Falcons are really struggling recently.
Two of Atlanta's last three wins required fourth-quarter comebacks, and they were tied with Oakland heading into the final period. If the Raiders had any semblance of an offense, they might have taken full advantage of Matt Ryan's trio of interceptions. Meanwhile, it took a 40-yard field goal in the closing seconds to save the Falcons from an embarrassing loss to Carolina, this after the Panthers punted the ball away instead of taking an opportunity to ice the game on 4th and 1. What coach doesn't give Cam Newton the rock there?
We've been saying all year as the Eagles were racking up one- and two-point victories that all wins count in the same column, which is still the case. Then again, we've also experienced how easily those games can swing either way.
Atlanta is 6-0 any way you look at it, a quality team with a smart quarterback, multiple weapons on offense, and a well-coached defense. What the Falcons are not is a totally dominant, unstoppable force. They've handled business against the soft part of their schedule, and demonstrated an ability to outlast opponents in tight games. If you want to crown them, then crown them.
It's not exactly a bold prediction to say this team won't last the entire season undefeated though. If the Eagles bring their A-game on Sunday, as they often tend to do after holiday, Atlanta's winning streak may not last too much longer at all.