Early view in NFC South isn’t what most expected: Falcons on top

October 2, 2016 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers in the Georgia Dome Sunday October 2, 2016. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who torched Carolina’s secondary for 12 catches, 300 yards and a touchdown. makes one of his catches Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 48-33. (Brandt Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

It’s four games into the season and the Falcons have a two-game lead in the NFC South.

Anybody who tells you they expected that is lying. Or they play for the Falcons.

Asked following Sunday’s 48-33 win over Carolina if the Falcons are the team to beat in their division, tackle Jake Matthews said, ““On yeah, no doubt. We knew we were the team to beat in the division going into the year. That’s the confidence that we have. We just have to take it one game at a time and keep doing what we are doing.”

What the Falcons are doing is pretty impressive, certainly offensively. Since opening the season with a 31-24 loss to Tampa Bay and two of their former coaches, Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith, the Falcons have won road games at Oakland (35-28) and New Orleans (45-32) and Sunday easily handled Carolina 48-33 in a short week following a Monday night game.

Matt Ryan (503 passing yards) and Julio Jones (12 catches for 300) both set franchise records. Ryan threw four touchdown passes and has eight in the last three games. The team had touchdown drives measuring 71, 98, 99, 92 and 75 yards.

For my column on the game, click this link.

Where does this leave the Falcons? Not where most anticipated four games into a seemingly murderous schedule. They have a two-game lead over Carolina (1-3) and Tampa Bay (1-3).

The Falcons started 5-0 and 6-1 last season and managed to miss the playoffs, so nobody is going to make any assumptions. But the offense is rolling and the defense looked better Sunday than it had all season, at least for three quarters (allowing the Panthers’ offense only a field goal on their first seven possessions). The Panthers did most of their damage in the fourth when the Falcons switched to softer coverage (probably too early).

Coach Dan Quinn’s view of the team’s start is understandably cautious.

“We don’t spend too much time looking too far down the road,” he said. “We are trying to just stay focused on the week at hand. It brings us right back to the process of getting ready, and it’s all the guys helping that process. It was a good team win against a really good division opponent. We’ll leave it there.”

That’s probably wise.

Has you viewpoint of the Falcons changed over the past few weeks?

For more on the latest win, click here.

Some recent ramblings

Reader Comments 0

32 comments

They have a two game lead over Tampa Bay and Carolina...did the Saints leave the division suddenly?

DawgNole
DawgNole

Falcons finally getting some respect/love from ESPN/Berman--thanks to Sunday's Matt&Julio Show.

namssip
namssip

One thing that is very clear is Roddy White needed to go. Maybe the players were not playing as well last year as kind of a protest to the incompetency of Dimitrof. I don't know but things look real good for the rest of the season. But remember this is a weak division and the Falcons have some very winnable games but I don't expect a second half collapse like last year. I wish I had a bookie to wager on the Falcons winning most if not all games this year.

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

This team has a good shot vs Denver and Seattle. The back to back road factor is real and will make even tougher. But, as long as they make these competitive tough games it will show a lot. If they lose both people will over react. If someone gave me 3-3 to sign up for before the season started I would have taken it. Tough schedule. One thing is clear, Ryan is the top QB in this division and it's not even close. Just a need a little more defense. 

Peachtree Bart
Peachtree Bart

Spoon is gone for the season.  That defense needs to shore itself up somehow, as always.

BTC
BTC

Overreaction Monday?

Antoine Averill
Antoine Averill

Offensive Falcons can play with the best in the NFL . Defensively they have a lot of room to grow with those young D Backs. But i was very impressed with the defense  progress. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Ryan channeling Daryle Lamonica, the Mad Bomber. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

If we get one of the next two.......and not have any big injuries......we be fine!!

namssip
namssip

The Falcon have been lucky in playing teams that are down.  The Broncos QB has a shoulder injury so they could possibly beat Denver and pull an upset on Seattle.  Could be SB time.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@namssip I don't think the Falcons can beat Denver even if Denver doesn't use a QB. Strong defense against a less than average OL for the Falcons means Ryan won't have time to throw the ball. But....we, as  Falcon fans, can do our thing by expecting a miracle.

Peachs
Peachs

I would love for once a pundit in this town figuring out before the results come in, that they have something good.  The odds of something bad are greater, so sometime, in the day, they mail it in and if wrong people are too happy to need an apology. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I think most Falcon fans are cautiously optimistic, but I know the team is still coming together offensively and defensively. A good test this week obviously is the Denver Broncos.

Peachs
Peachs

@DarlaLewis much faster defense and they are starting to tackle, particularly Jones, who reminds me of a young Thomas Davis.  You can see where they have tried to go and are now getting there, just hope there are no injuries. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

That's what everybody said about Carolina. Rise Up Darla.

Eric_C
Eric_C

Jeff, I will admit to having been a doubter, but having been at the game today and seeing it in person, I'm starting to believe that only the Falcons can stop themselves on offense.  It was an incredible display to witness. 


On defense, it was a shame to see them take an insurmountable 34-10 lead and turn it into an uncomfortable 8 point advantage, and I give the Panthers credit for fighting back and converting the 2 point conversions.  Having said that, playing against an unfamiliar backup QB can be a disadvantage for a defense, especially in hurry-up. However, after a couple of drives, they started to get the reads down on Anderson and Alford got the picks to seal it.  


Above all, the main reason I will give the Falcons a chance is that the rest of the division is looking rather shaky.  Who else is going to take this division other than the Falcons?  The Saints, Bucs, and Panthers all seem to have bigger issues than the Falcons, and they are two games behind. 


I'm guessing the Falcons will at best be 4-2 and more likely 3-3 after the next couple of games.  But even so, at the worst they will be tied for first with a less brutal schedule going down the stretch.  8-8 could win the NFC South this year.  So, I'm cautiously optimistic if these trends continue that the Falcons can reach the playoffs. 


One last thing, this Falcons team is way ahead of the one that was 4-0 at this point last year.  

TOJacket
TOJacket

They have a damn good back up! Every time Cam starts pouting I would stick the back up in?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

If you did that, he'd be getting more time than the starter (Cam)--and thus would no longer be a backup.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

Not looking good for the Falcons in two weeks.  Seattle is probably the hardest road game for any NFL team. The Seahawks hardly ever lose at home.  The fans are just too intense there.  Matty Ice will have trouble getting plays off. 


In addition the Seahawks have a bye week next week, will be well rested, and have 2 weeks to prepare for the Falcons.  The Falcons have to play next week, get banged up again, and have only a week to prepare for the Seahawks.  


Looks like a double digit loss for the Falcons.  

Eric_C
Eric_C

@MaybeMaybeNot being up two games in the division helps take the pressure off, don't you agree?

TOJacket
TOJacket

Maybe..........Maybe you're high on crack? What's wrong....you a Matty basher?

DawgNole
DawgNole

JS: ". . . the Falcons . . . easily handled Carolina 48-33 in a short week following a Monday night game."

________________

I wouldn't call it "easily."

To paraphrase you from this very column, "anybody who tells you they weren't sweating this one in the 4Q is lying."

On the other hand, winning in a short week following a Monday night game--especially a win--is seldom easy, yet the Falcons pulled it off emphatically with those two late picks.

Hopefully now they can carry some swagger with them to Denver, where they'll sure as hell need it vs the defending SB Champ Broncos, who're already putting together yet another strong season.


cshudson24
cshudson24

@DawgNole Yeah! I was sweating. However, the Falcons Offense answered when needed. Plus, they got they ended the Saints "hex". Big to win back to back Division games.

Eric_C
Eric_C

@cshudson24 @DawgNole Yes, I hope the Falcons can at least split, especially if the win is at Seattle, but losing two does not doom the season like we thought it would after the Tampa loss...crazy.

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

Been a Falcon fan since 1966.  Back to John Brodie, Roman Gabriel, Randy Johnson, Norb Hecker days, after the loss to Tampa Bay first game,  the defense appeared to be playing for number one draft choice, in 2017. Now it's looking some what better.