After seven games last season – one of some import for the Falcons – the home team was 4-3. Expectations, as they are for that bean burrito nestled in the gas-station cooler, were low. But they got microwaved and everything changed quickly.
After seven games thus far, the ledger is identical. No one is entirely certain what to expect of these Falcons now, as they come off a rough tour of the AFC East and finally get around to playing someone in their own weight class.
Only natural to wonder whether this version can turn it on as did that Super Bowl-bound squad. Problem is, there’s not really a switch anywhere around the Flowery Branch training grounds marked “Start Playing Like Champions,” that can be flipped on a moment’s notice. I looked.
Predictably at his Wednesday media summit, Dan Quinn said he would draw no examples or parallels between the first seven games of this season and those of 2016. No point to it. Different team. Different time. Turn the page.
All that’s wise, even beyond the fact that those are some of the first lessons taught at head-coaching kindergarten.
Don’t look back and assume anything. Because there are at least a couple of major differences between the start of 2016 and where the Falcons find themselves today.
For one, the 2016 team, even while losing three of its first seven, was yielding clues to the offensive beast it would become.
It was averaging 33 points per game (this year’s team is at 22). Matt Ryan already had thrown for 2,248 yards and 16 touchdowns, four interceptions (1,844-9-6 thus far this season). Julio Jones, with a huge 300-yard receiving game against Carolina in the bank, had markedly more yards (830 to 540) and touchdowns (4-1) through the first seven games of last season.
And for another, the back half of this schedule seems more daunting than the one that eventually spelled out last season’s 11-5.
At the close of 2016 they got to play a disengaged Carolina, and some weak out-of-conference opponents in San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams (combined 6-26 that year). Still to come now are two division leaders – Seattle and Minnesota. And who knows what Dallas is?
And competition within their own division looks a bit more barbed. At no point last season did New Orleans or Carolina have a winning record. Both currently reside above both .500 and the Falcons in the standings.
Just beware any assumptions that because the Falcons wreaked such havoc over the second half of 2016 that they’ll be able to do so again. That trait is non-transferrable.