||12-27-2004 04:35 AM
I thought it was interesting to read what these guys said about the Atlanta game BEFORE it happened. Also interesting: in the last paragraph, they debunk the myth of the Saints being inconsistent.
ATLANTA (11-3) at NEW ORLEANS (6-8)
In the blink of an eye and the twist of an ankle, Atlanta has gone from overrated team to NFC favorite. No other team this season has a greater disconnect between its win-loss record and its performance. According to our Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) ratings ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ which break down each play of the season and compare it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent (explained further here) ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ Atlanta is a league-average team despite 11 wins. Now, in the wake of Terrell OwensÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s ankle injury, the Falcons look like favorites to advance to the Super Bowl.
But as much luck as Atlanta has had this season, it cannot match the serendipity that has blessed New Orleans. The Saints were 4ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ8 two weeks ago, and rank 25th in the NFL according to DVOA. They have since climbed back into the playoff race with wins over the uninspired Cowboys and the schizophrenic Buccaneers (who were having a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“bad TampaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? day). Now they get to play a Falcons team that has nothing to play for.
Locked into the second seed in the playoffs, the Falcons may well hold both quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Alge Crumpler out to help heal injuries, although coach Jim Mora is publicly denying this. Since running back T.J. Duckett and fullback Justin Griffith were already missing due to injury, the Saints will be facing an exhibition offense. True, Warrick Dunn, AtlantaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s other runner, enjoyed his best game of the season last week, and the SaintsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ run defense is terrible. But if AtlantaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s passing game consists of rookie Matt Schaub throwing to the leagueÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s worst wide receiver corps, New Orleans will be free to load up the line to stop Dunn.
ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s tempting to view the Saints as an inconsistent team, but nothing could be farther from the truth. When you adjust each gameÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s performance for the strength of the opponent, they are the most consistent team in the NFC. They lose to good teams, they beat bad teams, they never win big, and theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve only been blown out by the two best teams on their schedule, San Diego and Denver. But their consistently second-rate performance will be enough to win if Atlanta only plays half an offense.
Doesn't give me a lot of confidence for a victory against the Panthers (one of the two good teams in the NFC right now). Go Saints!
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