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This week’s big question: What is real, and what is a mirage?

Atlanta heads out West in search of some answers.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

In many ways, the second week of the season is the silliest of the entire year. All of the very important-seeming takes that we’ve shared and consumed since the Super Bowl concluded are now thrown to the wayside in favor of one week of results.

Even the most optimistic among us likely didn’t expect the level of competency that the Falcons showed in Week 1. And that’s not so much a shot at the team, itself, so much as an acknowledgment that we oftentimes overhype things in the offseason that don’t really matter. Remember when the acquisition of Laquon Treadwell completed the all-first-round-picks offensive Infinity Gauntlet and the Falcons rose to NFL supremacy? I do.

The Falcons showed tangible improvement in their run blocking, pass blocking, pass rush and run defense – all key question marks entering the season. Those are generally the bread and butter of good teams in this league. And, more importantly, a strong foundation in those areas usually increases the level of success for those around them.

That’s mostly what we saw for three quarters in Week 1 from Atlanta. It’s not that the Falcons all of a sudden fell apart in the fourth quarter, it’s just that a team that had been consistently on point with the potential benefit of surprise started making some mistakes. The Saints of course capitalized on those mistakes in the biggest possible way, but some chinks in the armor began to show.

This brings me back to my original point – that one sample from the Falcons was a doozy. What are we supposed to make of it? Is Grady Jarrett, not Aaron Donald, the real defensive nightmare in this game? Is the Kyle Pitts hype overblown? (No).

More importantly, are they a team capable of taking to it a popular playoff contender, or are they a team that trips up at the wrong time, whether it’s penalty, turnover or coaching decision?

The Rams are a team possibly asking themselves a similar question, albeit while polishing the Lombardi Trophy. Their five-man protection schemes crumpled beneath the Bills’ defensive line – an issue the Saints had with Atlanta as well. Outside of Cooper Kupp, the Rams didn’t have anyone consistently make plays. All four of the interceptions weren’t Matthew Stafford’s fault, but did he look quite right?

All of these questions may seem silly by Week 4, but after one Sunday of football, it’s all most of us have to go on.

So, what’s closer to reality for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons: The 160 rushing yards and four sacks through the first three quarters while building a 23-10 lead, or getting outscored 17-3 in the last 15 minutes while failing to capture that game-winning moment?

Check out the odds for this week’s game courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.