The dual beauty and ugliness of this Falcons squad is that you can imbue any meaning you like into them and there’ll be something valid to it. For example, you could legitimately argue any of the following things:
- The Atlanta Falcons are great! They rank among the top five or so offenses in most categories, they have a top 15 defense, they’re 3-1, and they were a yard away from being undefeated. Only injuries, bad luck, and a couple of turnovers have kept them from being the clear best team in football.
- The Atlanta Falcons are bad! They’ve turned the ball over so many times already that Matt Ryan is almost to his 2016 total of 7 interceptions, they won two games at the last possible second thanks to an overturned call and a last second sack, and they’re incredibly banged up. Only the injuries on opposing teams, good luck, and a couple of turnovers have kept them from being one of the biggest disappointments in football.
- The Atlanta Falcons are average! They should probably be .500 right now, having lost the Lions and Bears games and won the Bills game, where they got ripped off and unlucky. Their talent suggest they’re better than that, but the on-the-field results and injuries indicate they’re probably not a great team at the moment
See? Depending on your viewpoint, any one of those might feel credible, but there is a grain of truth in each of them. So how do you decide just how good this Falcons team is?
The answer, pretty simply, is that you don’t. Atlanta’s 3-1 at the moment and objectively one of the better teams in an NFC where the Panthers have one signature win and a lot of trash, the Seahawks look like an offensive-line-challenged tire fire waiting to happen, the Packers have been both ravaged by injuries and shaky, and the Vikings and Cowboys are playing inconsistent football at best. Aside from the suddenly-terrifying Rams and the dangerous Eagles, the NFC looks like a bunch of quality but flawed teams battling one another once again. The Falcons are still very much among the most talented teams in the conference, and certainly in the division, no matter what the records say.
Glance over at an AFC where the only legitimately good team appears to be the Kansas City Chiefs—yes, even the Patriots are beatable—and you start to understand that the Falcons are fine. I don’t claim to know what’s going to happen the rest of the way, but I do know that they should get some injured starters back in two weeks after the bye for a home game against the Miami Dolphins, who just got thumped in London by the Saints. I know that they have an MVP-caliber quarterback enduring a rough stretch, the best 1-2 punch at running back in the NFL, a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver and some strong supporting options, a good offensive line, and an up-and-coming defense, plus the most reliable kicker in the game.
This is all to say that there’s nothing to suggest that this team, with its winning record and decent remaining schedule, is in major trouble just yet. They lost a bad, pretty ugly game and aren’t playing at the peak of their powers yet, but unless you truly believe Matt Ryan or Steve Sarkisian are beyond help, they are absolutely fine and hitting a perfectly timed bye week.
Keep that in mind and you hopefully won’t drive yourself crazy over the next two weeks.