The Atlanta Falcons, however, are starting to prove to the football world that their as good a bet as anyone. The Falcons picked up an impressive 20-17 over another impressive team, the Green Bay Packers, on Sunday in Atlanta.
With the win, the Falcons join the Jets and Patriots as teams with NFL-best 9-2 records. That, only begins to scratch the surface as to why the Falcons may be a good bet come season's end. The Falcons are showcasing a balanced, well-disciplined attack that should remind fans of some past Super Bowl champs.
Here's why the Atlanta Falcons are the favorites to win Super Bowl XLV.
1. They are incredibly disciplined.
The Falcons committed just four penalties in their win on Sunday. That is considered an off-day for them as of late. Atlanta has been incredible this season in limiting their penalties. In their five games leading up to Sunday, the Birds were penalized less than three times per game. They're the league's least-penalized team and they don't give teams extra opportunities. And when they do…
2. Their defense bends, but doesn't break
This one will sound familiar in New England, but it is true. The Falcons will give up yardage — they were 18th in defensive yardage heading into Sunday before giving up 418 on Sunday — but they also entered the week ranked seventh in defensive scoring. The Falcons are not unlike the 2004 Patriots team that gave up over 300 yards per game, but allowed a stingy 16.2 points per game. Atlanta makes plays when it matters most, something they showed Sunday. The Falcons were able to force Aaron Rodgers to fumble on the goal line, a turnover that led to a touchdown before the half for the Falcons. The momentum was swung by the turnover, which, of course leads us to…
3. They win the turnover battle.
This one was on display as well Sunday as it was another clean game for the Birds. They forced the Rodgers turnover, and took care of it when they had it, giving them another game in which they had the advantage in the turnover battle. Atlanta entered Sunday with a +10 turnover margin, tied for third in the league in that category. They're a lot like last year's Saints and the 2006 Colts (both Super Bowl champions) in that matter. They don't fumble and they don't throw interceptions. Speaking of interceptions…
4. Matt Ryan is proving he is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
In today's NFL, you need a quarterback to win the Super Bowl, and the Falcons have a good one in Matt Ryan. The BC product doesn't put up the kind numbers that will make you stop and pick up the box score like a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees, but instead, the Falcons signal caller just wins games and does it efficiently. He's got 19 touchdowns to only five interceptions and his impressive 63 percent completion rate only got better following an impressive 85 percent showing on Sunday. He's not Manning or Brees — not yet at least — but he should remind some of past Super Bowl winners like Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. Also, he's very good at home, which could come in handy, because…
5. The Falcons are in the driver's seat for home-field advantage.
Say what you want about having home-field advantage, but one thing is for sure: when the Falcons have it, they take advantage of it. Ryan is one of the game's best at home — he's an all-but-perfect 19-1 at home in his career. More importantly, the Falcons are a dome team. You'll have to like their chances that much more if they don't have to go somewhere like Philadelphia, Green Bay or Chicago in the playoffs to win a game. Playing in the dome also makes their offense that much better, a big advantage when you think about the fact that…
6. Their offense is as dynamic and as balanced as they come.
Matt Ryan is only the beginning. The Falcons, as they've shown already this year, can beat you any way they need to. Sure, they can hang on and pull out a late win in a rock fight like they did on Sunday over the Packers. They have a running attack that, when it's on, is among the best in the league. Michael Turner should still be recognized as one of the game's best backs, and while a strong running game isn't the same staple to winning the Super Bowl that it was just a few years ago, it's still important. On days where that isn't working, the Falcons can still throw it around the parking lot. Roddy White has been the NFL's best receiver this season and is Ryan's favorite target. Not only that, tight end Tony Gonzalez proved Sunday he can still be effective. The passing game is there when the Falcons need it, but a balanced offensive attack is their bread-and-butter.
Of course, the two losses the Falcons have this season come to likely playoff teams — the Steelers and Eagles. And while those wins came earlier in the season and on the road, the Falcons will have to prove that they can win those types of games. If they start doing that, they'll be the unquestioned favorites to win the whole thing.
There's still a long way to go this season. It isn't even December. But, after 12 weeks of football, the Atlanta Falcons are starting to show they may be in a class by themselves.
Are the Falcons now Super Bowl favorites? Who do you think is most likely to be left standing in February? Share your thoughts below.