Last year, the injury bug hit the Falcons like a truck from the get-go. After three weeks, there was essentially no chance their hobbled squad could overcome all the players that hit the IR. Atlanta hasn’t been absent of injuries this year, as their first-round pick, Chris Lindstrom, fractured his foot in Week 1. However, it’s safe to say; they are not feeling the worst of it in their division.
Early in last week’s games, Drew Brees broke his thumb, and it was revealed he would need surgery and miss around six weeks. That’s detrimental to a team that many believed were the favorites to come out of the NFC. However, not only is Brees hurt, the Saints haven’t looked like the same team that nearly made it to the Super Bowl last year. The Texans almost pulled out a Monday Night victory over them in the Superdome – something that is usually an impossible task against a Drew Brees-run team. Then they were trounced by the Rams in Week 2 following Brees’ injury. Aside from their quarterback, the offense hasn’t looked as crisp, and their defense – that was second against the run last season – is being run on at will, allowing nearly 150 yards a game. It is going to be challenging to win ballgames when you can’t stop the run, and you are missing a Hall-of-Fame quarterback.
Coming into the season, I actually thought the Bucs were more of a threat than the Panthers to win the division. Cam Newton was already dealing with injuries from the preseason, and to be frank, the once superhuman QB has come down to earth significantly since his 2015 MVP season. He’s no longer a running threat like he once was, and his passing has always been sub-par. Pocket-passing Cam Newton does not scare me, and now he’s injured again and expected to miss Week 3, while the Panthers sit 0-2. This team might be lucky to go 6-10.
The Buccaneers might be the second-best team in the division by default. I thought Bruce Arians could come in and turn Jameis Winston around, but after two weeks, it’s becoming evident Winston is unfixable – at least in Tampa Bay. He threw two touchdowns to the wrong team in Week 1, resulting in Arians completely changing up the offense in Week 2 against the Panthers. The Bucs were a run-first team, and they don’t have the personnel to win many more games like that. Winston has to be much better, or Tampa Bay has no chance of winning the division.
That leaves the Falcons, who are the healthiest of the bunch and probably have the best roster top to bottom. These next six weeks are an opportunity for them to enforce their will on their division rivals and build up a little cushion before Brees returns. Last week was a perfect start. Now, it’s time to keep the momentum going against the Colts.