There hasn't been this much excitement about the Atlanta Falcons since Jamal Anderson and company were doing the "Dirty Bird" in 1998, dancing their way to the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance.
The Falcons are currently 10-3. They clinched the National Football Conference South championship Sunday with a 35-10 victory against the Oakland Raiders. With the division title wrapped up and a playoff spot clinched, the question now is whether this new group of "Dirty Birds" is for real?
You better believe it.
Part of it has to do with the sorry state of the NFC, but, more importantly, the Falcons have the most explosive player in football -- Michael Vick. Make no mistake about it, this team will go as far as Vick's left arm and legs will take it.
He has been a Jekyll- and-Hyde quarterback all year. When he is accurate with his throws and limits turnovers, the Falcons win. But when he turns the ball over and struggles in the passing game, the Falcons lose and look like the worst team in the NFL.
The proof is in the pudding.
In the Falcons' three losses, Vick has been downright horrible. He only completed 38 of 77 passes (49 percent) for 430 yards (143.3 per game). He threw zero touchdown passes compared to five interceptions. In those games, he rushed for 172 yards (57.3 per game) but lost five fumbles. Add it up and he's only averaging 200.6 total yards per game and has 10 turnovers compared to zero touchdowns.
Throw an ugly 6-3 victory against the Cardinals in there, where Vick turned the ball over three times, and those numbers go up to zero touchdowns and 13 turnovers. Technically the Falcons won the game, but neither team deserved the "W."
In the other nine games, all wins, his numbers aren't eye popping, but they are consistent. He has completed 116 of 189 passes (61.4 percent) for 1,579 yards (175.4 per game). He has rushed for 581 yards (64.5 per game). More importantly, he passed for 11 touchdowns and rushed for two. Conversely, he only threw five interceptions and didn't lose a fumble in that span.
Vick is unique in the fact that he can take over a game without putting up eye-popping stats. Defenses have to key on him so much that it opens everything up for his teammates. His biggest challenge is making the right decision.
If he can limit those turnovers, the Falcons will score points.
The defense won't be mistaken for the '85 Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, but it has a knack for making a big play and is capable of holding a lead late in the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been the best team in the NFC this season, but it's premature to hand them the NFC championship like many already have.
Call me crazy, but I believe the Falcons are the most talented team in football. They also have the most physically gifted quarterback the league has ever seen.
Vick has been somewhat inconsistent, but I believe he will only get better. If he does, watch out, because opponents will not be able to contain the Michael Jordan of the NFL.
Falcons are legit contenders
- Greg Kohntopp
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