TORONTO - Even though they sport the best record in the NFC at 8-2, the Atlanta Falcons can’t help feeling a little bit like legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
Without a track record of sustained success or continuous seasons of dominance, the praise tossed the Falcons way has been muted and measured.
The Falcons this Sunday are afforded an opportunity to prove they are the cream of the NFC crop by virtue of a convincing victory over the improving Green Bay Packers, a heavy pre-season favourite to be the NFC representative at this season’s Super Bowl.
What gives the pundits pause is the fact that the Falcons lost to the Steelers on the first week of the season with their second loss a convincing 31-17 thrashing by the Eagles in Philly back on Oct. 17.
The Falcons have produced three wins against teams with winning records this season, a 27-24 away win at New Orleans, a 27-21 victory over Tampa Bay, which earned more plaudits for the Bucs than it did Atlanta, and what may be their biggest win of the season, a 26-21 victory over Baltimore back on Nov. 11.
Still, the Falcons have to show a little more beginning on Sunday. They have to show they can dominate a top opponent, something they have yet to do.
“I think it’s a lack of consistency,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said when asked about it earlier this week. “That’s why we haven’t been able to do it. I’m not sure as to why, but the biggest thing that we need to do is remain focused on the process.”
The Falcons are riding a four-game win streak into the game and under Ryan’s direction are 19-1 when playing at home.
With a victory over the Packers they will erase any doubt over which team is the best in the NFC and prove that the road to the Super Bowl this season goes through Atlanta.
ONE CHAD READY
With a number of teams reduced to playing quarterback roulette at this time of the season due to injuries and the like, the Miami Dolphins appear to be leaning towards handing the ball over to one of their injured Chads.
The Sun Sentinel reports that head coach Tony Sparano will likely give the game day not to Chad Henne for their west coast game against the Oakland Raiders.
Last week with both Henne and Chad Pennington out of action, the Dolphins were forced to go with Tyler Thigpen and that didn’t work out very well as Miami was shut out 16-0 by the Bears. As a starter, Thigpen is 1-11 in his NFL career, a record not lost on Sparano.
At 5-5 the Dolphins would have to run the table and get a lot of help along the way to even have a sniff at a playoff spot so every game from here on out is of the must variety.
Since playing Thigpen doesn’t give them much of a chance at all, Sparano may be prepared to roll the dice on a hobbled Henne, who injured his left knee Nov. 14 in a game against Tennessee after being benched for Pennington, who was also injured in that game.
Henne has been medically cleared to play but just how mobile he is and how capable he would be avoiding the Raiders’ rush remains to be seen.
“I feel pretty good,” Henne said earlier this week. “Overall, I have had much improvement over the past week and I feel pretty good.”
Whoever starts at quarterback will have to make do without Brandon Marshall, the team’s leading receiver with 58 catches. Marshall didn’t practise all week leading to speculation he won’t make the trip west.
Any way you add it up, it doesn’t look good for the Dolphins.