Did you expect the Atlanta Falcons secondary to be potent?
The Atlanta Falcons have won a lot of games this season. If you guessed before the season that the secondary would be the main reason for that, you probably thought that would be with Brent Grimes' service included.
What's been truly incredible about 2012 is that Grimes has missed all but the first game of the season, and yet the secondary has been mostly stellar. They've grabbed 16 interceptions, and while they're just 16th in the NFL in terms of passing yardage, that's tied for third in the league for picks. They've squeezed excellent games out of Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, yes, but also Chris Owens and Robert McClain.
Owens in particular has been a huge surprise. McClain has been widely praised since he started manning the slot early in the season, showing as one of the team's surest tacklers and most aggressive cover guys. But Owens has been a perennial punching bag, a guy most Falcons fans wouldn't trust to make them a grilled cheese sandwich. All he did in the Panthers game is allow only four of the nine passes headed his way to be completed while knocking down two passes.
That's not even mentioning Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, who have combined for nine interceptions and 130 tackles in 2012. That's more or less the best safety tandem in the NFL, and that's been a major factor.
That gives the team a real advantage heading into the 2012 playoffs. There are so many teams with suspect secondaries (Green Bay, Tampa Bay, New York) and others with middling passing attacks (San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle) that having a strong one is a gamechanger. The fact that they truly ballhawk goes a long way, too.
No one can say whether the Falcons will win their first playoff game of the Mike Smith era this year, but certainly this secondary is the strongest one they've had in the last five seasons. I can't help but feel good about it.
How about you? Do you view the secondary as an advantage?