The NFL regular season is only 16 games long—which is short by other leagues’ standards. But that is long enough for a football team to change its fortunes and turn around a bad start. And that may be what’s happening down in Atlanta, where the Falcons are clearly on the rise in the NFC. The Falcons played in the Super Bowl last season. That is, after amassing a 6-4 record and then winning five of their final six games to take the NFC South Division. Now in 2017, they reached the 10-game point at 6-4 again and appear poised for another playoff run. Currently riding the wave of four wins in the past five games, the 7-4 Falcons have worked their way into the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. The Falcons are getting hot at the right time. And with 28 points per game scored in the past five games, they are beginning to resemble the Falcons team that boasted the number one offense a year ago. They lost their offensive and defensive coordinators after the Super Bowl appearance. But now, the scheme of OC Steve Sarkisian appears to be taking hold. The Falcons, while still winning games, struggled a bit (relatively) on offense this season. They came into Sunday’s game as the worst team in the league in terms chunk yardage plays (plays for more than 20 yards), after being the best in that category last season. The Falcons took a few steps in correcting that deficiency in their most recent 34-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In that game, the Falcons put up 516 yards of offense that included a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to wide receiver Julio Jones. Then, a 51-yarder to Jones from wider receiver Mohamed Sanu. While the two chunk plays were a good sign for the Atlanta offense, the fact that Jones got in the end zone was an even better sign. Coming into Sunday, Jones—regarded by many as one of the best wideouts in the game—had only one touchdown in the first 10 games. He has, rightfully so, seen a lot of double coverage this season. And, had struggled to breakout in the scoring column. That “scoring drought” has contributed to a passing offense that is now ranked ninth (with 256.5 passing yards per game). Decent, but not what it was a year ago when Ryan won the league MVP. But against the Bucs, a 12-catch, 253-yard performance is always good for what ails ya.’ (In the game, Jones became the first player to record three games of more than 250 yards in a career [according to the Elias Sports Bureau]. He even passed Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the most receiving yards and Anquan Boldin for most receptions for a player through his first 90 NFL games.) The Falcons have leaned on the passing game recently. Running back Devonta Freeman missed the past two games with a concussion. Good news is, he’s returning Sunday. Tevin Coleman, who is the yin to Freeman’s yang in the backfield, has been picking up the slack of late. And, the offense itself still ranks 10th in the league in rushing yards at 116.8 per game.
Falcons Avoiding Super Bowl Hangover
The Sports Post | Dec 2