Why the Atlanta Falcons Can Reach the Super Bowl
The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints, 38-32, on Sunday and secured the second seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs. This, obviously, means the Falcons will have a first-round bye and are guaranteed at least one playoff game in the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta, now 11-5, has missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons, but have a renewed energy and confidence under head coach Dan Quinn that could propel them into Super Bowl LI. So here are three primary reasons why the Falcons could be primed to eventually punch their ticket to Houston:
1. The Brotherhood
Quinn has connected with the team and, in turn, the players have connected with each other. A deep bond was formed when Quinn brought in Navy SEALs to lead the Falcons through exercises in the offseason that have sharpened their character and unselfishness.
The players have talked about this connection all season long and each player wears a "Brotherhood" shirt underneath their uniform during each game. The team has a never quit attitude and have shown that they will fight for each other. The brotherhood is something that can't be taught or bought, it simply has to be forged in adversity and this team is the only one in the NFC that has it.
2. The Prolific Offense
The Falcons offense scored the most points in the NFL this season (541). As if that isn't dominant enough, the unit averages 10.8 points more than the league average of 22.7.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has so many weapons, you may not have even heard of some of them. You know wideout Julio Jones and the two-headed backfield of running backs Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman. Most defenses playing against Atlanta have also learned of the names Aldrick Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, or Levine Toilolo.
In fact, the offense is so deep with weapons that it now owns the NFL record for having 13 different players catch a touchdown pass in the same season. Ryan will finish with an NFL-best 117.1 passer rating to go with the highest yards-per-attempt figure (9.26) ever by a quarterback with 400 or more passes in a single season.
Here is the bottom line, no defense in the NFC playoff picture is good enough to slow down Atlanta, especially in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. That is a recipe for high flying victories.
3. Opportunistic Defense
Atlanta never been known for having a very good defense, but this unit has begun to take big strides under the defensive-minded Quinn.
For starters, they have the most productive pass rusher in the NFL in Vic Beasley Jr., who lead the league with 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. Additionally, the unit as a whole intercepted 13 passes and forced 17 fumbles in the regular season. They are young, fast, and have the talent to make game changing plays.
Rookie linebacker Deion Jones posted 108 total tackles and three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Rookie safety Keanu Neal posted 106 total tackles and forced five fumbles. Both of those players are candidates for defensive rookie of the year and have changed the dynamic for this defense to a hard-hitting and playmaking unit.
Josh Schultz is a staff writer for Pro Football Spot's Atlanta Falcons Coverage. Follow Josh on twitter @draftblackboard and on his Facebook page: Josh Schultz, Pro Football Spot.