10 reasons Falcons can beat Niners

Matt Ryan and the Falcons can handle the 49ers. REUTERS/Chris Keane

The 1972 Miami Dolphins won all 17 games they played that year but they could never defeat a perception problem.

According to pro-football-reference.com, the unbeaten Dolphins were considered a pick 'em selection for their AFC divisional and title games and were underdogs against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

The reasons for this lack of respect stemmed from Miami being seen as a team that racked up its unbeaten record against weak competition and it was assumed the Dolphins would falter once they squared off against playoff-caliber opponents.

This year's Atlanta Falcons are not unbeaten but in many ways they look to be in the same boat, as they are considered underdogs against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

This is understandable at some level considering that, according to a study done by ESPN Stats & Information, the Falcons had the easiest schedule in the NFL this year. Add that to their late-game collapse against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round and the 49ers' dominant win over the Green Bay Packers and it's easy to see why Atlanta has perception issues.

Having noted those, the truth of the matter is there are at least 10 reasons to think that the Falcons will be like the '72 Dolphins and show the world their underdog status is undeserved.

Matty Ice is more than just a cool nickname

The general takeaway from that Seahawks-Falcons game is Seattle's comeback grit, but it should be remembered just as much for Matt Ryan's moxie in driving his team 41 yards in only 23 seconds to set up a game-winning field goal.