Will Winning So Many Close Games Hurt The Atlanta Falcons Come Playoff Time?

The Atlanta Falcons are 7-2 for only the third time in the franchise's 45-year history and if the previous two times are any indication, the Falcons will be playing football on Jan. 23 and perhaps beyond. In 1998, the Jamal Anderson-led Falcons made Atlanta's only Super Bowl, losing to the Denver Broncos 34-19. In 2004, Michael Vick led the Falcons to the NFC title game before falling to Vick's current team, the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.

The Falcons have achieved this current state of success by winning the close games. They lead the league with five victories by one score or less this season. They've had only two wins this year by more than one score; a 10-point victory against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 and a 34-point crushing of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. Even more impressive is the fact that the Falcons are 5-1 in one-score games this season, losing only to the Pittsburgh Steelers by six in overtime.

Since Mike Smith, Matt Ryan and the new regime came to Atlanta, the Falcons have played 22 one-score games versus 20 games that were decided by more than eight points. The Falcons are 15-7 (68 percent) in those one score games and 12-8 (60 percent) in all others. It was reinforced last week in prime time against the Baltimore Ravens but this team knows how to win when the game is on the line.

The Falcons are also finally getting the respect from the national media as an NFC contender but the one knock against them is they have too many close wins. They say it can't last over an entire season. Are they right? Does winning a lot of close games mean a team is simply lucky and that luck will eventually run out? Down the rabbit hole we go to find the answer.

Since the merger in 1970, there have been 40 Super Bowl champions. The chart below shows how many regular season and playoff games were won by one-score or less (7 points from 1970-1993, 8 points from 1994 and beyond) and the total percentage of games that season.

Year Team Season Playoffs Total %
2003 Patriots 8 2 10 53%
1987 Redskins 7 2 9 50%
1986 Giants 9 0 9 47%
1981 49ers 7 2 9 47%
2006 Colts 8 1 9 45%
1976 Raiders 6 1 7 41%
1970 Colts 6 1 7 41%
2007 Giants 5 3 8 40%
2008 Steelers 6 1 7 37%
2001 Patriots 4 3 7 37%
1990 Giants 5 2 7 37%
1972 Dolphins 3 3 6 35%
1980 Raiders 5 2 7 35%
1988 49ers 5 1 6 32%
1978 Steelers 5 1 6 32%
1982 Redskins 4 0 4 31%
1997 Broncos 3 3 6 30%
1977 Cowboys 5 0 5 29%
1975 Steelers 3 2 5 29%
2009 Saints 4 1 5 26%
2004 Patriots 4 1 5 26%
1998 Broncos 5 0 5 26%
1991 Redskins 5 0 5 26%
1984 49ers 5 0 5 26%
1974 Steelers 4 0 4 24%
1993 Cowboys 4 0 4 21%
1992 Cowboys 4 0 4 21%
1989 49ers 4 0 4 21%
1983 Raiders 4 0 4 21%
1979 Steelers 4 0 4 21%
2000 Ravens 4 0 4 20%
1971 Cowboys 3 0 3 18%
1994 49ers 3 0 3 16%
2005 Steelers 2 1 3 15%
1973 Dolphins 2 0 2 12%
2002 Buccaneers 2 0 2 11%
1999 Rams 0 2 2 11%
1996 Packers 2 0 2 11%
1995 Cowboys 2 0 2 11%
1985 Bears 2 0 2 11%

 

The Falcons are on pace for nine wins this season by one-score or fewer. That would tie them with the 1986 New York Giants who won nine one-score games in the regular season and then didn't play one again the rest of the playoffs. The overall record for winning close games is the 2003 New England Patriots who finished their Super Bowl season winning 53 percent of their games by a touchdown or less.

The average one-score wins by a Super Bowl champion since the merger is 4.3 in the regular season and 0.9 in the postseason for a total of 5.2. The Falcons are way ahead of that pace and looking at the rest of the schedule, I could see a potential for five more close victories giving them 10 this season, breaking the Giants regular season record and the Patriots overall record before the playoffs even begin.

So what's the answer? Is it a bad thing to be winning a lot of close games? No, but it would be comforting to see the Falcons blow some teams out or at least win comfortably over the last seven games of the season. They've won 71 percent of their games by fewer than one-score and that would be a record for a Super Bowl champion, which, let's face is, is the goal for this year. The Falcons will keep winning but the history shows us they would be better off doing so in a more grand fashion.

In This Article

Teams
Players

Trending Discussions

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join SB Nation Atlanta

You must be a member of SB Nation Atlanta to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Atlanta. You should read them.

Join SB Nation Atlanta

You must be a member of SB Nation Atlanta to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Atlanta. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.