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Atlanta’s offensive and defensive rankings suggest they’re one of the NFL’s best teams

3-1 record and close calls be darned.

Buffalo Bills v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The image accompanying this post isn’t a happy one, but it is just one moment in a four game stretch for these Falcons. I used it because I wanted to point out that one moment could be used to argue these Falcons aren’t good, don’t have it, etc., when the evidence by and large suggests the opposite.

Through four games, the Falcons are more or less exactly where I hoped they’d be, albeit just shy of 4-0. They are a top five offense and a top 15 defense overalla, and if you had told any of us that before the season, I think all but the most demanding of us would have accepted it. They’re a good football team, especially relative to the rest of the league, which has largely been a tire fire.

On the offensive side of the ball, Atlanta’s been a little shaky in the deep passing game and has seen Matt Ryan harried thanks to some weak games and an injury to Ryan Schraeder. They’re still fourth in total yardage (as of Monday night), fifth in points, ninth in passing yards, and 10th in passing yards, and those numbers should improve as Ryan (hopefully) stops having shakier efforts. Their biggest problem by a wide margin is the -4 turnover ratio they’re sporting at this point, a reversal from last year if there ever was one.

Defensively, they’re 13th in total yardage, 19th in scoring, 18th against the pass and 12th agains the run. They’re not a great defense—the pass rushing productivity numbers and sacks are up, but they’re getting paper cut to death by middling offenses—but there’s plenty here to feel optimistic about, particularly once Ricardo Allen and Vic Beasley are back in the fold.

Now, I don’t want anyone thinking I’m suggesting that this team has blown the rest of the NFL away and has no issues, based on these numbers. Injuries are an obvious limiting factor, turnovers have killed them the last two weeks, and they’ve let all but one of their opponents hang around, and they’ve yet to face one of the NFL’s elite offenses. All of that can be true—and is true—but the Falcons are still one of the more balanced, capable teams in the NFL. That bodes well going forward, even if the team in here and now is somehow both very good and very frustrating.

The key question for Atlanta really becomes one of health, and if they’re back at close to full capacity coming out of the bye, I love their chances of delivering the kind of solid-to-blowout wins that seem appropriate for one of the league’s best teams. That’ll be particularly true against the Miami Dolphins.