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The Falcons lost and regained first place in the NFC South without playing a game

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The bye week can be fun like that.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When the Falcons dropped their last game to the Buffalo Bills, they were still comfortably in first place in the NFC South. In the nearly two full weeks since then, they have lost their hold on the divisional lead and, as of late last night, regained it again.

That is entirely thanks to the Panthers, a dangerous team weirdly incapable of looking dominant for more than a short stretch here and there. With a tight but impressive road win over the Detroit Lions in which Cam Newton threw for over 300 yards, they moved to 4-1 and first place in the division, and I felt good enough about their trajectory to recognize them as the team that looked most threatening for the Falcons. Then they lost last night, albeit against a good team on a short week, on the road, and largely without a concussed Luke Kuechly, but with horrendous blocking, no ground game and a lousy performance through the air by Newton. That put Atlanta right back on top.

And that’s where we stand today. It is evident that the Panthers are a good football team with some limitations that may or may not be fatal, but the Falcons need to do their part and keep rattling off wins to keep Carolina at bay. Starting with a home victory over the Dolphins and moving to 3-1 to keep that divisional lead would be an excellent start.