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.

Union see 4-game winning streak end in shutout loss to Real Salt Lake

Union see 4-game winning streak end in shutout loss to Real Salt Lake

BOX SCORE

SANDY, Utah -- Joao Plata scored his first goal of the season and Real Salt Lake beat the Union, 1-0, on Saturday night to snap Philadelphia's club-record winning streak at four games.

Plata tapped in his goal in the 36th minute after quickly exchanging short passes twice with Jefferson Savarino. Tony Beltran got the play started by saving the ball just before it went over the goal line.

The Union (4-5-5) had a chance to tie it in stoppage time, but goalie Nick Rimando blocked Haris Medunjanin's belt-high free kick and Salt Lake (4-8-2) cleared it after a scramble in front of the net.

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake made seven saves.

Howie Kendrick makes 4th rehab appearance in Lehigh Valley

Howie Kendrick makes 4th rehab appearance in Lehigh Valley

Howie Kendrick on Saturday night made his fourth rehab appearance in Triple A during Lehigh Valley's 13-1 rout of the Louisville Bats in Allentown.

Kendrick went 1 for 5 with a run scored and three strikeouts. He also grounded into a double play and left two runners in scoring position.

It was his second rehab game playing third base. He played third during his appearance in the IronPigs' 8-4 loss Thursday to the Indianapolis Indians. He was 0 for 1 in three plate appearances with a run scored and was hit by a pitch twice (see story).

The Phillies' plan for Kendrick was to have him play a minimum four games at Lehigh Valley. He played left field in two games and third base twice. Pete Mackanin said Wednesday that Kendrick would also get a game at first base but he hasn't gotten a game at first yet.

There is a chance Kendrick could be recalled Sunday before the Phillies’ series finale against the Cincinnati Reds depending on how he feels.

Kendrick has been sidelined since April 15 with an oblique strain. In 10 games before the injury, Kendrick went 13 for 39 (.333) with five extra-base hits and four walks while exclusively playing left field.