NFL Playoff Picture: Atlanta Falcons and 3 Teams We Just Don't Trust

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IDecember 10, 2012

Dec 9, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts on the sidelines in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Do you trust the Atlanta Falcons? It's hard to right now. 

However, they aren't the only team in the NFL playoff picture that shouldn't have the confidence of the masses.  

Three clubs, including the Falcons, must show drastic improvement over their last three games to change that. 


Atlanta Falcons

For an 11-2 team, there's plenty of reason not to trust the Atlanta Falcons. They struggled to beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals in Week 11 before holding off a good but clearly flawed Tampa Bay Buccaneers team by a point.

Next up was a game the Falcons won by only 10 points despite Drew Brees throwing five interceptions in the Georgia Dome.

Finally, in Week 14, Cam Newton and the previously 3-9 Panthers dominated Atlanta en route to a 10-point win. 

The main problem with the Falcons lies within their run defense. Only the Saints allow more yards per carry than the 4.9 yards that Mike Smith's team allows. 

Matt Ryan has elite talent and a stellar group of pass-catchers, but the team's shaky offensive line is prone to breakdowns. 

Furthermore, if the running attack can't get going, the Falcons become extremely one-dimensional. 

The amount of sheer talent on the offensive and defensive side of the football has gotten the Falcons to 11-2, but can they be trusted in January? 


Baltimore Ravens 

The Ravens' decade-long reign as the team with the league's most intimidating defense is officially over.

Injuries to Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and Terrell Suggs certainly haven't helped. However, the overall talent level on that side of the ball has made Baltimore's defense slightly better than average. 

Though Lewis isn't the playmaker he once was, he will provide a much-needed lift when he returns.

If Ray Rice is given an adequate amount of touches per game—in the vicinity of 20-25—the Ravens will compete in nearly every game. 

We just don't know if that will happen each week. 

Maybe the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is the spark this team needs.

Joe Flacco's inconsistency is well-documented, and if he is entering a rough patch going into January, the Ravens could find themselves out of the playoffs much sooner than expected. 


Cincinnati Bengals

With Andy Dalton comes streaky play. 

In midseason victories over the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, the second-year quarterback threw nine touchdowns with no interceptions and had an average quarterback rating of 115.4.

Since then, he has thrown two touchdowns to three interceptions with a 71.5 quarterback rating and one blown fourth-quarter lead at home.

The Bengals defensive line is vastly underrated and A.J. Green is a premier wideout, but if Dalton can't remain steady down the stretch, there's not much reason to trust Cincinnati come playoff time. 

If they even get in, of course.