by JJ Cooper
If you're looking for coach of the year, hand the trophy to Falcons coach Mike Smith--no matter how many game Jeff Fisher and the Titans wins. If you're looking for a rookie of the year, you could do a lot worse than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. If you're looking for the free agent acquisition of the year, Falcons running back Michael Turner has to be near the top of the list.
And if you're trying to figure out who from the NFC will be around come playoff time, you have to consider the Falcons. Actually typing that sentence seems almost impossible to believe just a year after the Bobby Petrino fiasco.
The Falcons were clearly the superior team as they laid out a beat down on the Saints, potentially ending the Saints playoff hopes in the process. Pay no attention to the final score--the Saints scored a touchdown in the final seconds to cut the final margin of victory to a more respectable 14 points, but the Falcons led 20-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
Ryan outplayed Drew Brees. Jerious Norwood provided the big play with a 65-yard touchdown catch and Turner had his usual productive day. And after proving once again that they are for real, the Falcons players are having trouble not thinking about the playoffs:
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For anybody who wanted to take note, the Falcons defensive end said it's OK to go ahead and pencil the Falcons in the playoffs.
"Definitely, I felt that from the first game and I'm going to keep saying it until we make it," Abraham said. "We play good as a team. That's the best thing that you could say right now."
Atlanta still needs to win at least four games in a very competitive NFC to make the playoffs, but with very winnable games against the Broncos and Chargers in the next three weeks, that looks doable.
The Saints, on the other hand, are just about done. In many seasons, 4-5 would be OK, but with 10 NFC teams at 5-4 or better, it would take a miracle, and a better conference record than their current 2-4 mark to have a realistic shot of turning things around.
Falcons 34, Saints 20: Could the Atlanta Falcons Be Playoff Bound? originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Sun, 09 Nov 2008 22:38:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.