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Checkdowns: Deja vu for the Falcons?

Mike Smith's team either just converted a 4th-and-1 or won another one-point game.

Mike Smith's goal in 2013 is to face a bad #6 seed for a change.

Much has been written this season arguing that the Falcons are not as good as their 13-3 record. Conversely, the Seahawks have emerged as a favorite among some in our advanced statistical community: Brian Burke ranks Seattle as the third most efficient team, Aaron Schatz ranks them number one, and Pro-Football-Reference ranks Seattle second in the SRS behind only the Patriots.

Here’s a quick way to summarize the Falcons-Seahawks game on Sunday: Atlanta won two more games than Seattle this season but the SRS says that the Falcons are 5.7 points worse than the Seahawks. That’s based on the fact that (1) Seattle has outscored opponents its by 2.9 more points per game than Atlanta outscored its opponents this year, and (2) Seattle faced a schedule that was 2.8 points per game harder than Atlanta’s schedule.

How often does it happen that a home team in the playoffs won 2+ more games than its opponent but was at least 5 points worse than that opponent in the SRS? This is just the second time such a matchup has occurred in the last 10 years… and the first involved the 2010 Falcons. In fact, this scenario has only unfolded five times since 1970:


It’s worth pointing out that in both instances when the home team won there were some extenuating circumstances. The Titans-Bills game ended with the Music City Miracle, with the Bills holding the lead in the final seconds. In addition, Doug Flutie, who was the quarterback for 15 of the games that season which formed the basis of Buffalo’s edge in the SRS, was controversially benched for Rob Johnson in that game.

The other game involved arguably the best Steelers team of that era. The ’76 Steelers allowed just 29 points in their final 9 games, which included five shutouts. But running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, who had become just the second pair of teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, were unable to play in the AFC Championship Game against the Raiders. Chuck Noll installed a three tight-end offense to compensate, but it only served to confuse Terry Bradshaw and not the Raiders defense.

  • Wintermute

    So you’re saying there’s a chance. ATL just needs to hope for M. Lynch bumping knees with R. Turbin and R. Wilson getting benched for M. Flynn. Pfft. My child’s college fund is all in on SEA.