FBO: Atlanta’s shrinking title window
In terms of wins and losses, the Atlanta Falcons are flying high in 2012. They have clinched the NFC South title with an 11-1 record and have a 94.7 percent chance of earning a first-round bye according to Football Outsiders’ playoff odds.
If wins and losses were a reliable measure of team quality, though, Atlanta would have been celebrating an NFC championship after its 13-3 record and No. 1 seed in 2010.
Football Outsiders’ measure of team efficiency, Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average, shows that this season’s Falcons are a lot like the one that went one-and-done two years ago. In 2010, they finished seventh in overall DVOA; through 13 weeks of 2012, they rank 10th. Their offense and special teams are slightly worse this season, but their defense is playing at a nearly identical level of efficiency.
The main difference between then and now is that this season’s gaudy record has come with a turn of good fortune. In 2010, the Falcons recovered only nine of 23 fumbles on defense and played a mediocre strength of schedule. In 2012, they’ve recovered eight of 12 fumbles on defense and have played the second-easiest schedule in the league.
This raises an interesting question: If the Falcons don’t take full advantage of their good fortune this season — and suffer another early exit in the playoffs — is it time to start worrying about a closing window of Super Bowl opportunity given the team’s large number of older starters?
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