Whether you want to admit it or not, the Atlanta Falcons have definitely surpassed expectations so far this season. They have won games they were not supposed to, and lost games that they should have won (Seattle). They stand on top of the NFC South at 6-4, while being 3-1 against the division. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are 4-5, with Carolina in last at 3-6. While being the division leader is very important, this bye week could not have come at a better time.
The Falcons got their tails whipped in their last game against the Eagles. The defensive line got absolutely obliterated by the Philadelphia offensive line, causing the game-plan to crumble. Eagles running back Ryan Matthews rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries, while also scoring two touchdowns. Another negative was that the offense looked like they did a year ago. Julio Jones had 16 targets, but this team has too many good receivers for one player to get looked at that many times. This was one of the games where Matt Ryan did not spread the ball like he has been, and the offense looked nothing like it has during many parts of the game.
With that being said, the bye week could not have come at a better time for this team. Players can rest up, some players return from injury, and the organization can get mentally and physically prepared for the final stretch of the regular season. Atlanta’s final games they will play will be against Arizona, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Carolina, and New Orleans. If the Falcons can take four games, the division should be theirs.
Matt Ryan has had an MVP caliber season, but expect the Falcons to get the running game more involved with Tevin Coleman (hamstring) likely returning from injury. He and Devonta Freeman were the best one-two running duo in the NFL before Coleman was sidelined, and was a key component as to why the Falcons offense was so explosive. Look for Kyle Shanahan to get everyone involved and not zone in on one specific player. If the offensive line can play like they have the first part of the season, this offense can score on anybody in this league.
On the defensive side of the ball, Atlanta has improved, but they have played some poor games. Expect the rush defense to vastly improve after getting embarrassed Sunday. The rookies will continue to play with a lot of pressure on their shoulders, as the team will likely continue to start the four rookies on defense. Keanu Neal has played exceptional football, and look for him to cause some turnovers. He almost caused a turnover on an incredible play last Sunday when he spun off a block and batted the ball out of Brent Celek’s hands.
The sky is the limit for this team. They are currently in third place in the NFC, and having this bye will help the whole organization. Coaches will watch film, throw out different schemes, and find the right personnel for big time situations, such as the 4th and 1 play against the Chargers. As previously stated, the players will rest up, some players will return from injury, and be able to mentally and physically prepare for the final stretch of the season. The Falcons have surpassed expectations in the first 10 weeks, so why not expect them to keep it up for the rest of the year?