With a convincing win over Detroit on Saturday night, the Atlanta Falcons took another step toward a championship by locking up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
So why isn’t anyone buying Atlanta? The 13-2 Falcons have been dominant against teams they should beat this season, but have not played the most difficult of schedules. That’s not their fault – you can only play the teams they tell you to play. But there’s still the lingering feeling stemming from blowout losses in playoff games the last two seasons.
Greg Huseth, senior editor and staff writer for Blogging Dirty, says those two games have this team better prepared for what it takes to have success in the playoffs.
“The Falcons have been embarrassed the last two seasons in the playoffs and I think that has made them more mentally tough,” he says. “They also overlooked a bad Carolina Panthers team in Week 14 and got obliterated. Those playoff losses, and the more recent loss to Carolina, have taught them not to overlook any aspect of the game and that if they don’t execute, it won’t matter that they’re the number one seed in the NFC.”
The Falcons are going to have a challenging road in the postseason, even if they are playing at home. San Francisco and Seattle look to be peaking and Green Bay also is playing well. But it did look to me like Atlanta did take its game up a notch against Detroit, so maybe they are poised for a better showing.
Huseth joined us as our guest blogger for the regular season’s final week. Last week’s guest celebrity blogger was Keith Myers from 12th Man Rising. He went 12-4, which was good for second place last week. He beat Tony, who went 9-7. Andy hit on a bunch of upsets, which led to a 14-2 week that sprung him to a two-game lead for the season.
Here are our picks for the final week of the season.
|Sunday, December 30||Andy||Tony||Blogging Dirty|
|NY Jets @ Buffalo||Buffalo||NY Jets||Buffalo|
|Carolina @ New Orleans||Carolina||New Orleans||Carolina|
|Tampa Bay @ Atlanta||Tampa Bay||Atlanta||Atlanta|
|Chicago @ Detroit||Chicago||Chicago||Chicago|
|Philadelphia @ NY Giants||NY Giants||NY Giants||NY Giants|
|Jacksonville @ Tennessee||Tennessee||Tennessee||Jacksonville|
|Houston @ Indianapolis||Houston||Indianapolis||Houston|
|Cleveland @ Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh|
|Baltimore @ Cincinnati||Baltimore||Cincinnati||Cincinnati|
|Arizona @ San Francisco||San Francisco||San Francisco||San Francisco|
|Oakland @ San Diego||San Diego||Oakland||Oakland|
|Kansas City @ Denver||Denver||Denver||Denver|
|Green Bay @ Minnesota||Green Bay||Green Bay||Green Bay|
|Miami @ New England||New England||New England||New England|
|St. Louis @ Seattle||Seattle||Seattle||Seattle|
|Dallas @ Washington||Washington||Dallas||Dallas|
Game of the week: There are a number of matchups with playoff ramifications dotting Sunday’s slate of games. Baltimore @ Cincinnati and Houston at Indianapolis are both solid divisional matchups, but other than the remote possibility of Baltimore moving up to a bye, there isn’t a lot riding on the outcomes. Fox has flexed the Green Bay @ Minnesota game to the 3 p.m. central start time. If Minnesota wins, the Vikings are in the playoffs and will travel to Lambeau Field for a rematch next week. If Green Bay wins … the final playoff slot in the NFC becomes somewhat of a calculus problem. As Minnesota fans, it’ll be the first time since Brett Favre’s first season as a Viking that we’ll be watching football that matters in week 17. But I think the “Game of the week” has to be Dallas @ Washington. As much as I hate to add to the NFC East bias, this game features the likely Rookie of the Year having a chance to lead the resurgent Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in years against one of their top rivals. The winner claims the NFC East. The loser … well, that depends on some other stuff. But NBC got it right when the network flexed this one to the night game. This is can’t miss football.
Game of the weak: When you look at matchups between Oakland @ San Diego and Jacksonville @ Tennessee, you’re looking at four teams that could be making coaching changes in a few days. Jacksonville and Tennessee have shown glimpses at times that they might be finding the hint of a right direction, but both will be picking in the first half-dozen or so picks of round one in April. We predicted Oakland would finish in last this season. They haven’t, but they still haven’t looked good in finishing third. San Diego being in second place at this point just illustrates the split between Denver and the rest of the AFC West. Take your pick this week. With most fantasy football champions crowned last week, both of these games are as close to pointless as it gets.