After an overtime win against the defending champion New Orleans Saints, are the Atlanta Falcons the team to beat in the NFC South?
Of course, it would be easier simply to blame last week’s upset on Garrett Hartley’s missed 29-yard field goal attempt in overtime, which would have sent the Falcons to a 1-2 record. But, there is more to this NFC South upset then just a missed field goal.
After a tough Week 1 loss to defensive powerhouse Pittsburg Steelers, the Falcons bounced back against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2; The team put up 41 points, thanks in large to quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 21-of-32 pass attempts for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The momentum couldn’t have come at a better time, and the Falcons walked into New Orleans to face their divisional rival with a chip on their shoulder.
Ryan looked good for the second straight week – completing 19 of 30 pass attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons’ quarterback finished the game with a 108.8 passer rating, marking the second straight game he has turned in a passer rating above 100 points.
However, as good as Ryan has looked to open the year, he is not the lone reason for the team’s success.
Ranked second in the NFL in rushing (160.3 yards per game) and leading the division in rushing yards per game by more than 60 yards (Carolina is second with 98.3), the Falcons seem to be back to running the ball in dominating fashion.
Even with starter Michael Turner and backup Jerious Norwood sidelined with injuries against the Cardinals , third option Jason Snelling was able to step in and carried a large part of the offensive load; scoring both a rushing and receiving touchdown, while racking up 129 yards on 24 carries and 57 yards on 5 receptions.
A multidimensional offense, the Falcons also find security in a defense that ranks sixth in the league in points allowed (15.3), and is in the top 15 against the run.
Still, with all the upside of the Atlanta Falcons, the team continues to be overlooked.
But, that will soon change.
With upcoming games against the struggling San Francisco 49ers (0-3), and the defenseless Cleveland Browns (0-3), the Falcons could be looking at a 5-0 start, and a comfortable lead in the division.