With two weeks to play in the regular season, it’s hard to compare the 2016 Atlanta Falcons to the NFC champion team of 1998. After all, this bunch still might not even make it to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.
But in one regard, the Falcons’ offense has already surpassed the ’98 squad. On Sunday, when Atlanta scored its third touchdown of the first quarter en route to a 41-13 shellacking of the San Francisco 49ers, the Falcons made it to 449 points scored this season. In 1998, previously the franchise’s best offensive year, Atlanta scored 442 points.
While the defense has slowly trended toward something mediocre or even decent, the offense has been phenomenal. They’re averaging 33.5 points per game and have outscored the NFL’s second-best offense, the New Orleans Saints, by 63 points. Those two offenses will square off in the Georgia Dome on Jan. 1, and there might be a playoff spot on the line for the Falcons in that game.
Atlanta’s offense has so many weapons that its leading receiver, Julio Jones, sat out the last two games with a sprained toe, and all they did was score 83 points with him on the bench. Granted, they played two of the worst teams in the NFL, but the Falcons aren’t above gifting wins to bad teams – at least they haven’t been in recent years.
And here’s the most mind-blowing fact of them all: despite the fact that Jones hasn’t played the last two games, he still remains the NFL’s leading receiver through 15 weeks.
On their current pace, the Falcons are projected to finish the season with 536 points scored, which would be good enough for eighth place all-time. But in their first meeting against the Saints and Carolina Panthers – their final two opponents – Atlanta scored 45 and 48 points, respectively. A repeat of those performances would bring them to 562 points scored, which would move them all the way up to third in single-season scoring.
Where this team goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it would be downright shocking if this offense, paired with an improving defense, was at home watching the playoffs on the second Sunday in January. And, frankly, the postseason would be less entertaining without Atlanta’s offense participating.Follow @Sean_Breslin