From wild overtime thrillers to games being decided by four points or less to bad refereed games, this season has been a wild ride for the Falcons. The craziest part about it: people are falling asleep on the ride and it’s just getting started.
The Falcons are sitting atop the NFC South through the first eight weeks of the season with a 4-4 record. Sitting under the Falcons are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers have had a season from hell. Tom Brady can’t seem to click with his offense, especially his offensive line which doesn’t seem to have the chemistry it should midway through the season. The Bucs have one of the highest-ranked defenses in the league, but with their lackluster performance thus far, does Tampa have what it takes to win another championship?
Tied with the Buccaneers are the New Orleans Saints. They also maintain a great defense but have struggled throughout the year to put wins on the board as they sit at 3-5. Go down another level and you meet the Carolina Panthers. A snooze fest. They have a great defense on paper, but it hasn’t translated into wins as they sit at 2-6 on the year.
So there you have it, the Falcons have a one-game lead on the Bucs and the Saints, but why are people still sleeping on them?
In the past, the Falcons have been known to blow leads in just about every game. For God’s sake, people literally dress up as the Super Bowl score when the Falcons had a 28-3 lead on the Patriots only to blow it a quarter and a half later back in 2016. For a more recent example, head back to the divisional rival game back on Sept. 11 when the Falcons faced off against the Saints. They maintained a 16-point lead at one point only to lose the game 27-26 in a heartbreaking loss. The past miscues haunt the Falcons every day and the rest of the league ridicules them for it.
The passing game for the Falcons has been lackluster all year. The team doesn’t have a true franchise quarterback yet the Falcons spent its most recent first-round picks on Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Most would think the team would have a solid passing game as both pass catchers have shown the upper-echelon plays they can make, especially Pitts last year. The ball has often been taken out of Marcus Mariotta’s hand and put into the run game. In the blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Mariotta only threw the ball 19 times. In the matchup against the 49ers, Mariotta threw the ball an even lower 14 times, yet he completed 13 of them and went on to earn the victory. Head Coach Arthur Smith loves his run-first dependent offense and to say it’s not the right way to run this team, just wouldn’t be fair. The team has been competitive all year and has displayed bright spots highlighting the progression made.
So how are the Falcons winning? Well, to put it all on the run game would be a stretch, but it does explain a lot of the reasons the Falcons have seen success this season. The run game has been the main thing keeping this team afloat through the first eight games. The Falcons are averaging 158.1 rushing yards per game ranking them fifth across the league in overall team rushing stats. They also have 1,265 rushing yards on the season. The Falcons ranked 29th in the league in the passing game. It’s obvious this is a run-first team, but when your quarterback is mobile and your running backs are getting it done, it all works out.
With the halfway point of the NFL season coming up, this is a crucial part of the year for the teams like the Falcons to break away with a lead in the division. The Buccaneers will most likely get their affairs in order and will begin to win games. If the Falcons want to win this division the players have to keep their foot on the pedal.