How Good Are the Atlanta Falcons?

How Good Are the Atlanta Falcons?

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.

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

Twenty-five of the Union’s 34 games in 2017 will be featured on CSN and TCN, as Jim Curtin’s club vies for a second straight playoff berth.

Twenty matches will air on TCN, while five can be seen on CSN. The nine others will be appear across 6ABC, ESPN and FOX Sports 1.

The Union’s season opener on March 5 at the Vancouver Whitecaps will broadcast on TCN and the team’s home opener on March 11 against Toronto FC will air on CSN. The next three games — March 18 at Orlando City SC, April 1 at D.C. United and April 8 vs. the Portland Timbers — will be shown on TCN.

The Union are coming off an 11-14-9 season and their second-ever trip to the MLS playoffs in which they suffered a first-round exit to Toronto FC.

For the Union’s full 2017 schedule, click here.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).