New consensus: Falcons are huge favorites in NFC South

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Nate Stupar, left, and linebacker Justin Durant celebrate during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Falcons won 24-20. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Nate Stupar, left, and linebacker Justin Durant celebrate during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Falcons won 24-20. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Undefeated and jumping for joy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Atlanta Falcons weren’t favored in their first two games, but they are — according to Mike Sando of ESPN Insiderthe new favorites to win the NFC South. In the span of six days, just about everything that could have gone right for the local NFL franchise did so.

They beat the Eagles here and the Giants there, twice coming from behind and holding off a final opposing sally. Julio Jones, who re-upped last month for $71.25 million over five seasons, has been so good that he might want to consider holding out until he gets a contract that will pay him his full worth. The rookie Vic Beasley Jr. ranks, according to Jeff Dooley of Pro Football Focus, as the league’s second-best 4-3 pass rusher.

Also: Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have been injured and won’t play Sunday against the Falcons in Arlington, Texas, and Jason Witten might not, either. (The Falcons are now listed as a road favorite.) Also: Drew Brees of the 0-2 Saints has a bruised rotator cuff.

Upshot: Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus slots the Falcons at No. 8 in the site’s power rankings; next-closest among NFC South entrants is Carolina, at No. 20. Even better: No team remaining on the schedule is ranked ahead of them.

More numbers: The Falcons are 10th in Football Outsiders’ proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average rankings. (Carolina is No. 9, though.) But Football Outsiders levies the Falcons’ playoff odds at 79.4 percent, gives them a 55.3 percent chance of winning the division and affords them a 22.6 percent shot at claiming the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Only Green Bay ranks higher in the latter category — at 22.9 percent.

Back to Sando, who writes:

(ESPN’s Football Power Index) gives Atlanta a 49.1 percent chance to win the division, a 16.9 percent jump from the preseason … The changes reflect what has happened to the Falcons’ opponents more than any demonstrable gains Atlanta has made in victories over the Eagles and Giants. The Falcons’ FPI rankings have inched up three spots to seventh for offense, one spot to 25th for defense, three spots to 17th for special teams and two spots to 18th overall.

Meaning: ESPN’s Power Index doesn’t see the Falcons as a great team, but they’ve won two games they weren’t supposed to win and they might well win a third this week — and these first three weeks were always seen as the toughest part of the schedule.

Sando also offers a human appraisal of the Falcons. He quotes a defensive coach who has studied the Falcons as saying:

“I really like what they are doing. All the fundamentals are installed. They have the big guys running and the little guys hitting. They have great body posture, which allows for explosive changes of direction in the underneath coverage, which should limit YAC (yards after catch). They have a four-man rush and know how to rush.”

Here Sando offers a discouraging data-driven word: ESPN’s game charting indicates that the Falcons rank 30th (of 32) in pressuring the quarterback. They have three sacks in two games, which is below the league’s median number. They’re 27th in total defense, up from the 32nd of last year but not that far up.

The point being: Given the schedule, the Falcons have given themselves a real chance to make something of this season. But anyone who sees this defense as fully rebuilt is, at this stage, being fanciful.

Reader Comments 0

100 comments
Mutley
Mutley

You guys woke up the LOOOOOSERVILLE CURSE, 14-0 Dallas 1st quarter.

Ackshun
Ackshun

It's funny how we only hear how bad the teams we have beaten suck AFTER a win.  Before that they are shoe ins for the playoffs eagles in the superbowl (yeah right).  We need to get the run game fixed pronto but other than that, this is a much better team. They got a real challenge in that Dallas defense, but I got a good feeling about this one.

Dman
Dman

I know right!!!

I'm so tired of hearing how the other team blew the game. Let's just sweep the NFC Least...

Dman
Dman

Although it is very early in the season, this season has been going great for us. This could turn out to be a great year. Let's not listen to all of the negative people who don't like us anyway and tune them out. With a new offensive and defensive scheme, we will only get better every week with more experience. Just get in the playoffs and play hard and see what happens.

Okeetee
Okeetee

If we win this Sunday, I would seriously consider sitting Matt Ryan for the next two home games, since they are against "chump" teams that probably can't beat us with our 2nd string QB!  Of course, this won't ever happen but the fact remains, with our weak schedule, the only thing that can derail us from making the playoffs is serious injuries to our key men: Ryan and "Me and Julio down by the school yard!"

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

That's like saying Rosie O'Donnell is the prettiest of the 400 pound fatties!

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

I predicted this 2 years ago. I said the Falcons needed to be awful instead of mediocre.. And land 2 top 10 picks for Defense/Offense ..and that 2015 will be the year we become relevant again! Its nice to cheer for the team to win games again instead of cheering for draft position! I think the Falcons will end up being a #2 seed and getting to the NFC title game again! Go Falcons!

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

By the way ...I don't think anyone's arguing with me anymore about the Julio trade! Special players like Julio are worth any 5 average players. I day this as a huge Megatron fan. Man just imagine if the Falcons got Megatron to replace Roddy White! Maybe hed take a hometown discount?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@BravesFan79 I'll argue with you just to keep the conversation going.  Here are my points.

1. If he gets injured, which he has shown a history of, you might would have wanted the 5 draft picks.

2. Don't skew the argument just because Cleveland screwed up on the draft picks.  Give 5 extra picks to a team with a GM who knows what they are doing and they have the foundation of a good team for several years to come.

3. Name another team that has traded 5 drafts picks that has won anything.  

4. Name another team that has paid so much for a Wide Receiver that has won anything.

5. Name another team that trades up like that has won anything.  New England doesn't do that. Seattle doesn't do that, 

That being said, I like Julio.  Not having an offensive line though is proving to be a problem.  

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Man I can't wait until Brooks Reed get's going and in football shape. I think he can help this team win a lot of football games.

MaField
MaField

OBJ (Odell Beckham Jr.) can make all the quick breaks he wants. The record as of today reads: Giants 0-2 and FALCON 2-0!!


rockinreel
rockinreel

I haven't forgotten that we only won against the Giants because of Kroy Biermann's sack-fumble on Eli.  Before that play at the goal line, our defense was getting crushed.  Eli passed all over us.


I LOVE watching the Falcons, but seeing our defense getting run all over isn't fun.  Let's hope for a miracle change.

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

This team needs some defensive playmakers

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

Carolina is 2-0 also, and I don't see how we could be favored over them after just 2 close games. It would be nice to pay them back for that whipping at the end of last year though, and if we succeed then maybe we could think about possibly winning the division.

SunDropMan
SunDropMan

The Falcons need to get with the program.  They are not cooperating this year.  They are giving "LOOSERSVILLE"  a bad name and rep.  The Braves have succeeded mightily and lived down to all the expectations, even made Fredi G happy with their lower than mediocrity type play. Maybe would be a good time for the Falcons to move to another city where winning is accepted.

Chopp
Chopp

@FarTrain Did you even make yourself laugh writing that garbage? Lame.

RISE UP ATLANTA

Big Wally
Big Wally

I've been a fan of this franchise since the early '70s.  Been let down so many times since then, I've learned to temper my enthusiasm over quick starts.  I still remember 1986, started out 4-0,  3rd game of season was a thrilling win in Dallas.  Ended up going 7-8-1 and not making the playoffs.

Rory_Bellows
Rory_Bellows

@Big Wally Dan Henning's H Back offense......HA! I remember.....He was the OC for the Redskins and a hot assistant coach. Kind of like where we are now, only on the defenseive side.......

Chopp
Chopp

@Big Wally  YOU have been let down? Boo hoo. How about the players playing the game? I am sure they had hopes as well.  Lets not get caught up in the past.  Focus on the present. We get enough pessimism from our own local media.  Don't need it from our own fans. Especially when we are 2 - 0! Get a grip Big Wally, this is a different team.

RISE UP

Savdon
Savdon

@Big Wally So you should also remember when, in 1980, Detroit rolled into town with their 4-0 record and that "Another one bites the dust" theme song.  They left town with their arses in their hands never to be heard from again.  It was an awesome game to be at.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Savdon @Big Wally I'm a little bit like Dawg Nole.  I've seen it before from Atlanta teams.  1 Championship out of like 148 years of professional sports seasons.  I like Quinn, I just think it is going to take him awhile to get his type of players in here.  

Chopp
Chopp

@Big Wally Will do. Just like I have with all those that were on here the last 3 months saying "check with me after Philly" then "see if they can do it two weeks in a row".  My guess is you will be nowhere to be found just as those naysayers are today.

RISE UP

Savdon
Savdon

@Big Wally @Savdon I hear you Wally.  I agree 100%.  I was 12 when they showed up.  Still waiting to win The Big Game; or at least not be an embarrassment year after year.  I think in a couple of years DQ will have a damm good team on the field.  After all, Wait 'til Next Year is just what we do. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Chopp @Big Wally I'm always here Suzy Sunshine.  Just make sure you are.  Don't make your reservations to the Super Bowl just yet.  Philly is awful

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Savdon @Big Wally He knows how to get the best out of his players. That's more than a lot of coaches n the NFL can do.

MoCool
MoCool

nfc south---weakest division in football! atl should win this division easily with beatdowns over new orleans, carolina and tampa. these teams are terrible!

Chopp
Chopp

@SlackTown I agree we should win but wouldn't call us the weakest division just yet.  The NFC Least looks pretty pathetic right now. 

Jmonty
Jmonty

We're 2-0 because of mistakes made by the other team.  Heck, the Philly game had a missed TD against us.  I don't think our overall numbers on defense is a whole lot better.  If we don't improve on both lines, we'll start hitting a very long rough patch of losses.  Sorry... I am not overly excited, at this point.  Too early in the season, and the stats don't suggest a huge improvement.  

Chopp
Chopp

@Jmonty What about the win/loss stat? I don't see a problem with that one.  Oh, but thats right, we only won because the other teams let us, right? Get real Jmonty and go troll Facebook or something.

RISE UP

Savdon
Savdon

@Jmonty Isn't that what football games are typically about?  The team that makes the least mistakes generally wins.  "Look it up."

ZakMan
ZakMan

@Jmonty 

You say this as if the Falcons didn't make any mistakes of their own. 

Columbusnative
Columbusnative

The Dirty Birds can keep winning if they would just be "CONSISTENT" and protect "Matty Ice".  We have enough talent to get us to the big dance. GO FALCONS!  RISE UP TIME!!

Dasdguy
Dasdguy

I got to admit I didn't see Atlanta becoming a 'Come from behind' team so early in the season. 

Go Falcons !!

Mix2011
Mix2011

ESPN’s game charting indicates that the Falcons rank 30th (of 32) in pressuring the quarterback. They have three sacks in two games, which is below the league’s median number. They’re 27th in total defense, up from the 32nd of last year but not that far up.

And to think that those stats are with the easiest strength of schedule.  I want to see what they will be like when they have one of the toughest schedules.  I said it before, they still have 2 or 3 years to be legit.

SeanLB
SeanLB

@Mix2011 This may be true, but we're also seeing pressure at KEY points in games.  It won't all be fixed at once...there's already improvement, however.  And, because our division is incredibly soft, I don't think a Division Title is a stretch at all.


With another off-season (FA and the draft), I think we'll begin seeing more of "Quinn-type" players entering the mix.  

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

Winning keeps the anti-Atlanta trolls away.  That's enough reason for celebration there.

Chopp
Chopp

@PalmBeachFalcon Don't speak so soon.  There seem to still be some "fans" who can't enjoy winning and can only credit the first two games to the other team.  RISE UP PB Falcon

Big Wally
Big Wally

Some have already booked their flights and hotel reservations for the Super Bowl.

Earhardnt_Fan
Earhardnt_Fan

Flacons have shoot there wad and I dont see them winn N E more games let a loan make the palyoffs even more so the Superbowel. 

R Tooty
R Tooty

Two games into the season and they already proclaim them the winners.  Must not be much to write about these days.  The falcons could easily be 0-2 at this point.  Hope they do win out but its a long season yet. 

BobbyDawg
BobbyDawg

With Matty Ice's ability to move the team into scoring position from deep in their own territory and Matt Bryant's field goal kicking ability, I can see how the Falcons are their top pick in the division. Hopefully our clock management has improved with Dan Quinn on board.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@BobbyDawg Just hope that Coach Quinn doesn't consult Mark Richt about clock management.

John Ellis
John Ellis

BS story Why, better yet what on gods earth do you see that others are not? Tech could beat this bunch

SeanLB
SeanLB

@John Ellis Tech couldn't even handle Notre Dame's backup QB.  What nonsense are you talking about?  

David Comerford
David Comerford

I would like to see 2 games this year before giving them the thumbs up. NFC championship against a good team like the packers and for the second game against anybody the AFC can offer up.