FBO: Atlanta’s shrinking title window

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Updated: December 6, 2012

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?

To read more about whether the Atlanta Falcons’ title window is closing, plus to get access to all of our NFL coverage, sign up for ESPN Insider.

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Article source: http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8720398/nfl-atlanta-falcons-too-old-vie-super-bowl-season