I like the Falcons to win. Others disagree


Please don’t let this happen again. (AJC file photo)

HOUSTON — I’m picking the Atlanta Falcons to win. No surprise there, I concede. I’ve been high on them … oh, pretty much since I wrote after they lost their opener to Tampa Bay that they’d become a bad team. (What can I say? Reality changes. I endeavor to adjust.)

In the interest of fairness, I point out two stories — one by Bill Barnwell of ESPN, the other by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders — that pick the Patriots. These are writers who know their advanced analytics and whose work I respect and enjoy.

Mr. Barnwell doesn’t just favor New England; he picks the Pats by 14 points. His conclusion: “The Falcons are a great team. It’s not a fluke they made it here, and I think I probably would have picked them to beat just about any of the other teams from the AFC. The Patriots are just a nightmare matchup for what the Falcons do well.”

(Oh, and before you label Mr. Barnwell a hater, be advised that he has gushed over the Falcons in previous missives, like this one from December.)

A bit of inside baseball, as it were: Mr. Schatz and I exchanged emails after the Falcons won the NFC title, and from his response to my contention that the Falcons’ defense has improved — he averred that the Patriots’ defense had improved even more — I got an idea how he was leaning. Sure enough … 

“It’s pretty easy to imagine the Falcons pulling off an upset with a ton of points and a couple of serendipitous bounces of the ball on defense or special teams. And yet, the Patriots were clearly the better team this year … The Patriots are more likely to slow down Matt Ryan than the Falcons are to shut down Tom Brady. There are just too many matchups that specifically favor the Patriots … Falcons fans are dreaming of a win that looks like the Giants beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII or Super Bowl XLVI. But this Atlanta team doesn’t look anything like those Giants teams that took down the Patriots juggernaut.”

I’d advise you to read both articles — not to make you mad but to get an idea of how two of the smartest guys in football analytics see this game. (Both are lengthy, but you’ll have time. Game doesn’t start until 6:40 EST.)

It surprised me that 30 of 36 ESPN on-air commentators picked the Patriots. That’s a bandwagon effect — without trying to cast aspersions, TV is big on bandwagons — that I don’t quite grasp. This is close to a coin-flip game. This isn’t the 49ers against the Chargers. (Favored by 18 1/2 points, San Francisco covered.)

Heck, these Falcons are a much smaller underdog — three points, as opposed to 7 1/2 — than against the Broncos 18 years ago. Full disclosure: I also thought they’d beat Denver until 10:15 p.m. on Super Bowl Even when someone called my room in Miami Hyatt Regency with the greeting, “A source tells me one of the Falcons just got arrested.”

The same person — you’d know the name if I mentioned it, which is why I won’t — called back 15 minutes later. “And it’s Eugene Robinson.”

At that moment, I knew the Falcons were sunk. I like this team’s chances even more than I did back then (pre-phone tip), but if I get a similar call tonight, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Really, though: If a Falcon gets arrested tonight, they should just fold the franchise.

Super stuff:

Why the stealth Falcons will win the Super Bowl.

Steve Bartkowski on these Falcons: “A team of destiny.”

Photo flashback: The 1970s Falcons

Photo flashback: The 1960s Falcons

The Falcons’ Ben Garland: A do-it-all who might need to do more.

Atlanta scores a huge win in Houston. And no, not the Falcons.

The highlight of my Super Bowl week: Seeing Lady Gaga.

So far, it’s Tom Brady’s Super Bowl. (So far, I said.)

ESPN: 4 out of 5 dentists … er, coaches … prefer the Patriots.

The face of Dan Quinn’s Falcons? Big hitter Keanu Neal.

Super starters show Signing Day isn’t always a stairway to heaven.

Super question: What will Belichick try to take from the Falcons?

Shanahan loses backpack with game plan, gets it back.

Opening Night: Belichick denies knowledge of underwear bearing his name.

The Falcons’ ultimate challenge — the dark lord Belichick.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn: The winner who went to dinner.

Falcons arrive, are mistaken (by my Uber driver) for a funeral.

Hope for the Falcons: The Patriots’ defense isn’t really No. 1.

Football Outsiders: ‘Nightmare’ scenario sees Falcons blown out.

The Falcons are headed to the game that defies simulation.

A revealing take on Matt Ryan from someone who knows him well.

Memo to Boston: I won’t apologize for Atlanta or the Falcons.

The Falcons are underdogs, but they absolutely can win.

Facing the hated Patriots, the Falcons are now America’s Team.

A Super day: Atlanta domination, Atlanta validation.

Reader Comments 0


I agree. They have the talent and desire and the ability to beat the Pats. They way they have to do it is out score them. No kool-drinking about how they can hold them, or make Brady as uncomfortable as they made Rodgers. The Pats offensive line will not allow that. Slow him down some? Hopefully. But to win, Ryan et al. have to just go out the and score, and stay with them. They get one TD or a field goal behind, it's okay. They get two TD's behind at any given point, and it could be all over. This one is about offense, and they can do it. Should be a very exciting game. 


I want to know why the Atlanta Media have not questioned the snub of Dan Quinn for Coach of the Year? The AP bias? This is precisely why the public loses confidence in the integrity of any media. Hopefully, but not likely, this was an apologetic mistake from writers who have not forgotten the first rule of journalism...

objectivity, not popularity.


Give Brady time to throw and you can turn out the lights.

I could say the same thing for Ryan.....but I won't, because Brady has done this before and Ryan hasn't.


With all of the hype and psyche, all of the yeas! and nays!, and all of the score predictions.................guess what? Someone is going to be right. Keep looking.....you'll find someone that agrees with you.

A great game is what really matters........if the Falcons win that's just icing on the cake.

Odds makers have made NE a 3 pt favorite(last I saw) That 3 pts is the result of NE's experience not that they are the best team. I think they are equal when all strengths are measured.The Falcons have everything to prove....NE has to prove nothing, they've been there, and they're back.

Quinn has been there and I hope he is guarding against the Falcons being over psyched and too high to start the game.


MB's track record with his picks isn't exactly sterling.

Let's hope he's actually right this time.  


Welcome to the club MB!! Falcons are simply the better team. And smart money is on the Falcons. Belichick and Brady may find a way to pull out a miracle, or the ball may bounce the wrong way, but we win this one 8 out of 10 times. All (or most) of the ESPN folks are just toeing the party line. Can't wait for kickoff.


IF our O-line holds up, I just don't see how their line backers can cover our backs all game long if we spread them out. If they double Julio then I doubt they can cover our other receivers all game long. If Hageman and Jarrett can get pressure up the middle on Brady, then we have a chance to win this game. By the way, all of the national experts do realize that our coach has had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots also, right?


I hope the Patriots are reading all their press and the Falcons too. I'll take the disrespect now for the glory tomorrow night. Screw Tom Brady.


$1 million wager placed on underdog Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons will be underdogs in Sunday's Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots, but one bettor is putting over $1 million worth of faith in the NFC champions. 

According to ESPN.com's David Purdum, CG Technology took the bet Friday on the Falcons to cover the three-point spread.

The anonymous bettor is risking $1.1 million to win $1 million.



Who the hell risks $1.1 million to win $1 million???

It's the other way around, right? Even you said so: "$1 million wager placed on underdog Falcons"



If you put up $1.1 million to win $1 million, you lose ($100,000)--even if you win.

You're even dumber than I thought. (Didn't think that was possible.)


@DawgNole @TOJacket Actually , You bet $1.1 Million and you collect $1 million if you win, so you actually will go home with $2.1 million. No sense the other way no one loses $100 K if you win a bet.



You "go home with $2.1 million" if you win, but $1.1 million of that was already yours--leaving you a net gain of $1 million if you win.

But if you lose, you're out $1.1 million, correct?

I must concede, as TOJ has pointed out, that I don't "dabble" in gambling at this level.

But hey, I can spell!



I dabble in gambling every football weekend--albeit not in 7 figures, or 6, or 5, or 4, or 3 . . . .

Who needs that if you can spell?!


Well Mark I hope your right , I am thinking the Pats defense has not seen the offensive fire power the ATL can bring. If we can run the ball even a little bit I think we win barring turnovers. And frankly I hope we get to see a shot of Gesile crying because her husband has just been stuffed into the hurt locker...Not injured just smacked silly like Rodgers two weeks ago...Cause if we don't make him uncomfortable he will beat us.