10-1. Both the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans share this league-leading record but as players on both teams will tell you, nobody in the media seems to be interested in these two teams’ success.
So why has respect been so hard for the Falcons and Texans to come by? Well as a long time Falcons fan I can probably answer why they get so little respect a little quicker.
Simply put, it’s hard not to look at the current Falcons and not see the old Falcons.
When I watch the Falcons I don’t see a dominant ball club that can easily take over games and crush their opponents. Instead I see the same old club that barely pulls out wins by the seat of their pants, no matter how good or bad the competition is.
Sure they have a top ten offense and a top ten scoring defense but you couldn’t tell by watching the product on the field. Quarterback Matt Ryan had a fierce start but has been pretty pedestrian numbers-wise over the past few weeks.
During the first five weeks of the season, Ryan threw for 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Over the past six weeks though those numbers have turned around with Ryan tossing only eight touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions.
Even more puzzling is the Falcons lack of a running game.
After new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was able to help running back Maurice Jones-Drew amass a league leading 1,606 rushing yards last season with practically no passing game to help open up lanes for him, Falcons running back Michael Turner is on pace to have his worst season statistically since coming to Atlanta.
With two talented backs like Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield and a talented trio of receivers like Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones in the lineup, it just feels like this team should be way more potent than it is. But they are not.
And despite leading the NFC, Atlanta is still a team without an identity. Out of their ten wins on the season, not one could be considered a signature win. That’s because they really haven’t played against a truly worthy opponent yet.
Sadly we may not get a chance to really see who this team is until the playoffs because their remaining schedule is pretty weak. The only team left on their schedule that may pose a true test for the Falcons will be the New York Giants who they will face at home on December 16th.
The Texans lack of respect is a more puzzling issue though. Houston has been a very potent offensive team over the years. They have been a top-ten scoring offense the past four years and are currently the second highest scoring team in the league right now.
The main reason that the Texans have missed the playoffs for so many years has been because of their hideous defense but that has changed since Wade Phillips took over as defensive coordinator. Last year they ranked in the top five in both points and yards and they are in the top six in both categories so far this year.
The Texans even have a few signature wins this season. They pulled off a 30-point beatdown of the Ravens back in October and grinded out a win in a tough defensive battle against the Chicago Bears earlier this month.
But the concern most people have concerning the Texans revolves around their injury-prone quarterback Matt Schaub.
Schaub has missed at least five or more games in three of the five previous seasons he has been in Houston. Although he hasn’t missed a game this year, Houston fans fear getting their hopes up only to be again disappointed by another season-ending Schaub injury.
That still doesn’t explain the lack of respect the Texans have received from the national media though. Regardless of why Houston has failed to receive the recognition it is due for having such a strong season, everyone will have to pay them more attention if they are successful in dispatching the New England Patriots on December 10th.
Both the Falcons and the Texans are locks for the playoffs though and that is what most people are watching for. Can these teams win when the games count the most or will both teams wilt under the pressure of the post season as they have in the past?
Only time will tell but in the meanwhile, both teams will have to continue to toil away in seemingly obscurity while the national media fawns over teams like the Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Giants and Ravens.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.
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