There’s no doubt that in an NFC Championship game, all records go out the window, but there’s one statistic that can’t be ignored by fans of the Atlanta Falcons: this team has gotten noticeably better in rematch games.
So far this season, Atlanta is 4-0 against teams they already played once, and the Green Bay Packers will be the fifth such opponent on Sunday afternoon. The Falcons went 2-2 in their first matchups with the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks, but those opponents were hardly competitive the second time they faced Atlanta.
Those four teams averaged a full touchdown fewer per game in the rematch, a testament to the improvements made by Dan Quinn’s defense. The Falcons averaged a 35-31 win against those four teams the first time, but in the rematch, the average score was 38-24.
That would also suggest the offense has improved as the season went on, which is downright scary for defenses. Since beating the Packers 33-32 in an exciting Week 8 home victory, the Falcons have gone on to win eight of their last 10 games, and one of those losses came on a last-second failed two-point conversion against the Kansas City Chiefs that was as weird as it was heartbreaking. The Falcons were the better team that day, and they’ve been as hot as any team since then.
Yes, including the Packers.
The Falcons just carved up the league’s No. 8 passing defense on Saturday. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 36-20 drubbing of the Seahawks that could’ve been even uglier. On Sunday, the Falcons will face the league’s 31st-ranked passing defense. If the Falcons can’t have a field day against this unit, it’s their own fault.
There are no guarantees in the postseason, especially when the guy leading the other team is Aaron Rodgers. But if Quinn’s Falcons can continue a pleasant trend of improving in rematch games, there’s no reason to fear any opponent – even one of the hottest teams in the league.Follow @Sean_Breslin