Atlanta has started the 2017 season 3-1. Overall, that’s a pretty good way to begin what we all hope is another Super Bowl campaign. They’ve defeated two potential NFC playoff contenders in four games, with victories over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. For the most part, they were able to do so with some key players injured, most notably RT Ryan Schraeder and EDGE Vic Beasley.
The issue lies in the way that the Falcons have looked during their 3-1 start. Outside of the game against the Packers—which was an impressive, dominant victory from start to finish—Atlanta has floundered at times against lesser competition (Chicago) and looked uncharacteristically mistake-prone with slews of turnovers to both Detroit and Buffalo.
Defensively, the Falcons have been playing solid football. They’re currently 10th in total yards heading into Week 6 and have been a much improved unit in the red zone. If not for the defense standing tall at the end of two separate games, the Falcons might be 1-3 instead of 3-1. The play of the defense may be the most encouraging part of the team’s 2017 performance thus far.
Offensively, however, the offense has oscillated between the dominance and creativity of the 2016 unit and the ineptitude and turnover-proneness of the 2015 group. Many of these turnovers—at least 3 of the interceptions—are not the fault of Matt Ryan. But who’s fault it is doesn’t matter; the fact remains that the Falcons are turning the ball over at an alarming rate and are currently T-28th in the NFL with a -4 turnover margin.
This is all juxtaposed with the fact that the Falcons are 4th in yards and 8th in points, clearly making them one of the better offenses in the league. The fact that they’ve been able to produce these numbers while being so mistake-prone is laudable, in some ways, but it doesn’t change the reality that the Falcons have not been the dominant team they were at the end of 2016 through four weeks.
I’m happy that the Falcons have shown the ability to win some ugly games early in the season, and even in an ugly loss to Buffalo—which they arguably could have won if not for shoddy officiating—they were competitive until the very end with a chance to steal a win in the final seconds. This is not a bad team, and there’s plenty of football left in the season for the Falcons to show us that they’re ready to compete for a title in 2017.
Coming off that Buffalo game, the Falcons need a statement win. They need a victory that signals to the league that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Sunday’s game against the wavering Miami Dolphins could provide an opportunity for just that.
Miami is coming into Mercedes-Benz Stadium after a truly bad week. A few days ago, their offensive line coach was forced to resign after a video surfaced of him snorting cocaine (apparently, before going into a meeting). The Dolphins brought QB Jay Cutler out of retirement after Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending injury during the preseason, and Cutler has proceeded to play absolutely terribly ever since.
The 2-2 Dolphins are 32nd in the league in yardage with 231.2 YPG, and they’re nearly 40 yards behind the 31st ranked team. They’re also 32nd in points, with a truly horrific 10.2 points per game. Starting WR DeVante Parker suffered an ankle injury in Week 5 and his status is in question for Sunday’s game. Long story short, this is by far the worst offense in the NFL, and they’re playing lousy, uninspired football.
While the Dolphins’ defense is much more capable, this is not a good football team. In fact, they’re a terrible football team. Their two wins have come against the 1-4 Chargers and the Titans sans Marcus Mariota. On Sunday, they’ll face a Falcons team coming off a bye with a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing loss in Week 4. This has all the makings of a bad day for Miami.
This is an opportunity for the Falcons to have a truly dominant game. They’re playing a clearly inferior opponent in Atlanta with extra preparation. The team should still be fired up after the way things went down against Buffalo. Atlanta is getting most of their injured starters back, including Ryan Schraeder, Julio Jones, Ricardo Allen, and possibly even Vic Beasley.
Hopefully this is the week we see the team come together and start playing like 2016 again. We saw flashes of it in Week 2, but we need to see it more often. The offense needs to get back to being creative and obliterating opposing defenses, and the defense needs to continue playing well and start creating some turnovers.
This may be the easiest remaining game on the schedule—the Falcons need to take advantage of it. Show the fans, and the NFL, that the 2017 Falcons are done floundering and scratching out wins. They’re ready to start dominating again.