Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Early view in NFC South isn't what most expected: Falcons on top


It's four games into the season and the Falcons have a two-game lead in the NFC South.

Anybody who tells you they expected that is lying. Or they play for the Falcons.

Asked following Sunday's 48-33 win over Carolina if the Falcons are the team to beat in their division, tackle Jake Matthews said, "“On yeah, no doubt. We knew we were the team to beat in the division going into the year. That’s the confidence that we have. We just have to take it one game at a time and keep doing what we are doing.”

What the Falcons are doing is pretty impressive, certainly offensively. Since opening the season with a 31-24 loss to Tampa Bay and two of their former coaches, Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith, the Falcons have won road games at Oakland (35-28) and New Orleans (45-32) and Sunday easily handled Carolina 48-33 in a short week following a Monday night game.

Matt Ryan (503 passing yards) and Julio Jones (12 catches for 300) both set franchise records. Ryan threw four touchdown passes and has eight in the last three games. The team had touchdown drives measuring 71, 98, 99, 92 and 75 yards.

For my column on the game, click this link.

Where does this leave the Falcons? Not where most anticipated four games into a seemingly murderous schedule. They have a two-game lead over Carolina (1-3) and Tampa Bay (1-3).

The Falcons started 5-0 and 6-1 last season and managed to miss the playoffs, so nobody is going to make any assumptions. But the offense is rolling and the defense looked better Sunday than it had all season, at least for three quarters (allowing the Panthers' offense only a field goal on their first seven possessions). The Panthers did most of their damage in the fourth when the Falcons switched to softer coverage (probably too early).

Coach Dan Quinn's view of the team's start is understandably cautious.

"We don't spend too much time looking too far down the road," he said. "We are trying to just stay focused on the week at hand. It brings us right back to the process of getting ready, and it's all the guys helping that process. It was a good team win against a really good division opponent. We'll leave it there."

That's probably wise.

Has you viewpoint of the Falcons changed over the past few weeks?

For more on the latest win, click here.

Some recent ramblings


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.