The Atlanta Falcons are 11-2, have already clinched the NFC South and appear well on their way to earning a bye and home-field advantage during the NFC Playoffs. Yet, as Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger wrote, "skeptics are plentiful."
"I can hear everybody right now," tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "They’re getting off the bandwagon. I can hear them jumping off. Looking at our history, people are going to go, ‘See, I told you.’"
The Falcons also have the added motivation of the memory of last season's lopsided 24-2 loss to the Giants in the Wild-Card round of the NFC Playoffs.
"I don’t have this, like, deep desire to get them back," Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo said. "I just want to play well and defend the Dome and get a win."
Let' take a look at the Falcons in this week's Scouting Report.
Overall rank: 376.2 yards per game (8th)
Points: 25.9 (8th)
Rushing: 86.9 yards per game (28th)
Passing: 289.2 yards per game (4th)
Quarterback Matt Ryan is having a fantastic season for a Falcons team that is much more pass-oriented than you might have realized. 'Matty Ice' has competed 346-of-511 pass attempts (67.7 percent) for 3,932 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 94.8. You think the Giants throw the ball a lot. Eli Manning has 462 pass attempts this season, far fewer than Ryan.
Of course, Ryan has an incredibly prolific trio of receivers to throw to. Tight end Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, has a team-leading 81 catches. Wide receiver Roddy White has 77 catches for a team-high 1,140 yards (14.8 yards per catch) and Julio Jones has 63 receptions for 997 yards (15.8 per catch).
Michael Turner leads the Falcons' ground game with 689 yards and averages 3.7 yards per carry.
Overall rank: 361.9 yards per game (20th)
Points: 19.9 per game (5th)
Passing yards: 234.9 (16th)
Rushing yards: 127.0 (23rd)
It seems fairly obvious from the numbers that the Falcons have given up yards this season, but that they have defended well enough in the red zone to prevent teams from scoring touchdowns.
Jacquizz Rodgers is a dangerous kickoff return man for the Falcons. He averages 26.9 yards on 18 returns. Dominique Franks is averaging 8 yards on 18 punt returns. Punter Matt Bosher averages 47.2 yards per punt with a net average of 41.4, eighth-best in the league. Veteran field-goal kicker Matt Bryant is 29-of-34 this season with a long of 55 yards.