Recent Results Show Team Skill Is Only A Partial Influence On Outcome

June 6, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive players including linebacker Spencer Adkins (59) and safety William Moore (25) (without helmet) react to cameras on the field during organized team activities at the Falcons training facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

If there's one thing that sticks out in many Falcon fans' minds, it's a set of two very distinct numbers:


24-2.


Of course, those two numbers are very important; the former being the score the New York Giants hung on us in the playoffs last season, and the latter, of course, being the number we hung - or totally didn't hang - on the Giants.
However, you'd be surprised to know that a poor showing isn't always indicative of skill. I am a very strong believer in things happening such that if something happens, the opposite is also possible. Granted, it's not applicable to everything, but in this particular instance in sports, I believe it is.
You see, there are a couple of other sets of numbers that hold a particular value to my argument:


36-32


and


29-23


Why are those two sets of numbers important? Find out after the jump.

Some of you guys that recognize scores better than me might notice that those are scores from two of the bigger upsets in the playoffs last year.

The first score was from the wildly entertaining Saints v. 49ers NFC Divisional game, where the game literally went back and forth for all four quarters.

These two teams...well, they're pretty much polar opposites. One plays with a fiery offense and little defense, and the other plays with a boring offense and a very, very angry defense.

Both teams were 13-3, with the 49ers being the higher seed in the playoffs. The question is, how many people outside of San Francisco's fanbase were predicting the 49ers to win? Probably not as many as you'd think. I'd even go so far as to say 49ers fans were probably just content with making the playoffs last season, but I digress.

The thing with this game is that, just taking a very brief look at what football outsiders gives, I can say there's no way the 49ers should've won the game. The Saints faced tougher competition defensively (They beat the #4, #5, #6, #8, and #9 best defenses with the 2nd best offense) compared to the 49ers, who lost to the #1 defense and #16 ranked defense, as well as ARI.

San Fran beat the #7, #9 and #10 (twice) defenses with the #18 ranked offense, however the victory against PIT (#7) was largely due to SF's defense rather than it's offense. SEA (#10)'s offense was ranked 22nd, and DET (#9)'s offense was pretty good, so you could chalk that win up to SF's defense.

Strength of schedule wasn't that close, either. SF had the 3rd easiest schedule last year, playing in a wonderfully weak division, while the Saints had the 13th hardest schedule.

I mean, it's a playoff game, it'll likely be close (I can't even say "It's a playoff game. It'll be close" BECAUSE OF US.) but to me, the Saints should win the game.

But this is why we play the game, right? This is why I feel like it's not about who comes into the game hot, but who gets hot during the game.

The thing I've noticed about playoff games is that the winner usually has to pull off some miraculous "OMGWTFBBQ" play to win the game. Case in point, Alex Smith's ridiculous TD run and his missile to Vernon Davis. Man, that was a good ball game, which takes me two game number two:

Tebow Time

Yeah, I brought that Tebow guy up, but you can't deny that what went down in Denver wasn't a freaking miracle. I'll keep this one shorter, but let's face it, there were very few people who expected the Broncos to win. Roethlisberger was hurt, if I recall correctly, which limited his mobility and allowed Denver's good defense to tee off on him.

Then, of course, Tebow's pass in overtime was the nail in the coffin against the Steelers, but even that play was miraculous. Even if Big Ben had an injury, PIT's defense could've just as easily beaten Tebow and the hapless DEN offense down, couldn't they?

But they didn't. At least, not for long enough to stifle Tebow Time. Tebow and the DEN offense was ranked #23, if you believe what Football Outsiders tells you.

PIT's D was ranked #7. Shouldn't that have been enough? Denver's offense resided with the Vikings, the Browns, the Seahawks, and the Jets in rankings. Do any of those offenses scare you? Would they scare you less if you had Pittsburgh's defense?

The fact remains that Pittsburgh should've won the game, but they didn't. Why is that? It's because "how good" a team is isn't necessarily the end-all solution for determining which team will win. Crazy things happen. Miracles happen, and it turns out that they might not be who we thought they were.

Now, how does this tie in to the Falcons? Well, we've had some times where we might've been statistically superior, but still lost the game. Why does this happen? Aside from many, many varying degrees of human emotions and whatnot, there's no real way to know.

But this is more of a post of optimism. Eventually, we'll be on the right side of a game where we're the ones that get hot and cause the miracle play to win the game. We have toiled in misery for far too long to let it continue for much longer. We have the tools in place to be successful, and just because it doesn't look like we have a snowballs chance in a really, really hot area to win the game, we might still pull it off. And hey, when it comes to the Super Bowl I like to say it's not if...

but when.

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