October 28, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) rolls out against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. The Falcons defeated the Eagles 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
The Falcons have played extremely well, and won. They have played extremely poorly and won. And they played extremely well Sunday in Philadelphia, and won. Basically, no matter what has happened, the Falcons have won. They would be in a great situation in the division regardless, but due to poor play by the rest of the division, they have the division by the throat.
Atlanta Falcons: 7-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-4
New Orleans Saints: 2-5
Carolina Panthers: 1-6
The Falcons have a four game lead on the Bucs, the second place team in the division. Tampa has been playing very good of late, but I don’t think they will seriously challenge the Falcons for the division. They will certainly put up a good fight in each game this season, and may even beat the Falcons. But that likely won’t translate into passing the Falcons in the division race.
New Orleans is in disarray. I thought they may be resuscitated after back to back victories over San Diego and Tampa Bay. Turns out, I was wrong. The offense could still be very good on any given week, but they are going to be playing from behind almost all of the time due to a historically bad defense. How bad has it been? The Saints are the only team in NFL history to give up 400+ total yardage in seven consecutive games. That is absolutely miserable. Against Tampa, they gave up 513 total yards and still somehow won. They gave up 530 yards against Denver Sunday night. Terrible, terrible defense.
Carolina isn’t getting it done. They have a lot of potential, as any team does with Cam Newton at the helm. But they haven’t figured out how to effectively run the ball, how to play run defense, or how to play pass defense. Cam Newton turns the ball over multiple times per game, and since that happens he doesn’t give his team a chance to win.
The Falcons don’t have the division sewn up yet, as evidenced by their not clinching anything yet. But I would expect them to clinch at some point this season. The combination of Atlanta’s outstanding play with the rest of the division foes playing really poorly, they will clinch at some point.