Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka are biting their nails. The Atlanta Falcons are 7-0. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and all of the Dirty Birds are the only ones keeping Don Shula's 1972 Dolphins from uncorking champagne and acting like 20-somethings on New Years. When will the clock strike midnight?
With a defense ranked just 20th in the league, and an offense in the middle of the pack, it may seem that a loss is right around the corner. Three of the last four Falcon victories have come by a touchdown or less and that includes close calls against the mighty Panthers and Raiders. However, there is one reason to believe the 82-year-old Shula may not be enjoying happy hour anytime soon.
The Falcons will be favorites in each of their next six games. Of their final nine opponents only the Giants are over .500. The rest of Atlanta's schedule features opponents who are a combined 27-38. And it gets better.
Of the last nine games they play this year, the Falcons are at home five times. This includes their only game against a winning team, the New York Giants on December 16, and their only matchup with a team currently .500, Arizona on November 18. Since the start of 2008 the Falcons are 30-6 at home during the regular season.
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The most amazing thing about this year’s Falcons is they are not elite in any category other than an unblemished record and an incredible schedule. If you think the next nine games are easy, what about the first seven?
In week two Peyton Manning was intercepted by the Falcons three times in the first quarter. Atlanta sprinted out to a 20-0 lead and then held on to defeat the Broncos 27-21. That victory marks the only Falcon win this season against a team with a winning record. Atlanta's first seven opponents are off to an 18-32 start to the season.
It is likely that Denver and the Giants are the only playoff teams Atlanta will face during the regular season. Who is their third best opponent? The candidates: Philadelphia, San Diego, Arizona, Oakland, Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. Those are the only teams the Falcons play this year currently at or within a game of .500. That group includes three teams who are likely to have new coaches next year.
By playing LSU and Texas A&M the next two weeks, the University of Alabama has as many quality opponents in 14 days as the Falcons do all season. Mercury Morris played at West Texas State University. He wants to know how Atlanta got their schedule.