These numbers say Falcons are for real

The Falcons are 3-0 with comeback Ws against the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. But are they for real?

Two prominent advanced statistic sites say yes.

Neil Paine, writing for stats guru Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com, used the site's Elo-based computer forecasting model to analyze the Falcons. A full explanation of the ratings can be found here. But a simple description of Elo is that it takes into account wins and losses, margin of victory, strength of schedule and location of games and also considers past performance.

Paine’s conclusion: “(I)n part because of an easy schedule, our Elo-based simulations call for the Falcons to win 8.1 of their remaining 13 games, fifth-best in the league. According to Elo, Atlanta has a 77 percent chance of completing its comeback journey and returning to the playoffs.”

Paine adds: "One quibble with Elo, though, is that it only uses final game scores to measure a team's performance; as such, it doesn't know how Atlanta has been winning. It's blind to those fourth-quarter comebacks. Because clutch play isn't a particularly consistent phenomenon, we might suspect a team that relies on a bunch of late-game comebacks to be especially primed for regression to the mean. But the Falcons' comebacks don't suggest their record is hollow."

Football Outsiders is even more bullish on the Falcons' playoff chances. The site's playoff odds gives the Falcons an 88.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, almost 21 percent higher than undefeated NFC South foe Carolina.

The Falcons rank 10th in the site's total DVOA with an offensive ranking of seventh, a defensive ranking of 25th and a special teams ranking of 14th. The site's DAVE ratings (a combination of preseason projections and current performance) have the Falcons ninth, suggesting their current level is sustainable.