The Atlanta Falcons are next in today’s series of team-by-team mailbags.
John in Sunnyvale, Calif., writes: I looked at the schedule for Sunday, and saw there is clearly only one premier game to show most of the country in the late time slot (Atlanta vs. Tampa). Then I looked at the map (the506.com) and see Fox television is blanketing the country with Indianapolis and Dallas. Are they actively trying to kill the NFL? If Atlanta makes it to the Super Bowl, what's Fox going to do? Preempt the live game to show a replay of Dallas' victory in Super Bowl 30?
Pat Yasinskas: For those unfamiliar with the506.com, it’s a great website where you can see a map of the country that shows which games will be televised where. I just took a look over there and John’s exactly right. The game between Atlanta and Tampa Bay, which is a big game for both teams with all sorts of playoff indications, will only get minimal exposure. It will air pretty much just in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and a few small pockets of Florida, with the game being blacked out locally in the Tampa Bay market. I hear a lot from readers about how the NFC South doesn’t get a lot of national attention and this is an example of why that perception exists. I can’t speak for television networks. But I think this demonstrates that, winning or not, the Cowboys and Peyton Manning have star appeal and that’s why they get the exposure they do. Not saying that’s right or fair, but that’s the way it is.
Adam in Raleigh, N.C., writes: I hope you can give my congrats to the Falcons fans out there. This year has been a lot like the 08 season was for Panthers fans. With two games left against the Panthers, I'm thinking the Falcons have a real shot of at least going 12-4. After all they have been through with Michael Vick, they deserve this season (much like the Saints did last year). That being said, each year is a different story, and they should enjoy it while it lasts because you never know when you may end up going 1-15. If the Panthers can't bring home the Super Bowl, the next best thing is bringing it back to the NFC South.
Pat Yasinskas: A very nice letter from a Carolina fan to Atlanta fans. Adam brings up a good point about how fickle life in the NFC South can be. But the Falcons are showing some consistency. They’ve already clinched a franchise-record three straight winning seasons.
Garth in Dacula, Ga., writes: I'd like to hear your take on the Falcons signing of Dunta Robinson 12 weeks into the season. The Falcons are in a great place as a team and maybe he is just quietly going about his business. I just don't know if he has added up to all the Falcons had hoped for. What are your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Good question. If you look only at Robinson’s individual play and statistics, you could say his impact has been minimal. He doesn’t have an interception and I’ve seen him slip in coverage several times and give up some big plays. But I think that’s a short-sighted and inaccurate way of looking at things. When the Falcons signed Robinson, they said they did it because he would make the rest of the secondary and the pass rush better. Think about that for a second. The pass rush is better and the rest of the secondary is better, so I think you can say the Falcons have accomplished their mission with this move. Robinson has brought a physical style to the secondary. He’s done a good job overall in coverage and that’s helped the pass rush. If he can generate a few interceptions down the stretch, then this signing would be viewed as an unquestioned success.
Brannon in Baton Rouge, La., writes: I’m curious to know why the Falcons are considered by so many people so much better than the Saints? If not for a missed field goal in overtime the Saints would have the best record in the division. I just don’t see the Falcons being "that" much better than the Saints.
Pat Yasinskas: I assume you’re talking about various power rankings and the talk by many that the Falcons are the best team in the NFC. Well, power rankings and talk about who’s the best don’t really mean all that much right now. They are just conversation pieces and the real answers come at the end of the season. I agree there isn’t all that much difference between the Saints and Falcons (and maybe even the Buccaneers) and that helps make my job fun. But I’ll let Falcons fans share their thoughts on this in the comments section below.