The Atlanta Falcons have the same record as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but are ranked third in the NFC South by virtue of their losing to the Bucs earlier in the year. At that point the Falcons were really struggling. Their defense couldn't really get anything done, while they were trying to lean on Matt Ryan to win games now that they had the sparkling new toy called Julio Jones.
That didn't exactly work.
And then, Julio Jones got injured. That forced the Falcons to get back to what they did last year: run the football, and force the ball to Roddy White. And now they're suddenly good again. Take the game away from Matt Ryan and they do succeed. I'm shocked.
Okay, so that's a bit much. Matt Ryan is a pretty good quarterback - he just can't carry a team, and the Falcons found that out early this season. Having an offensive line that couldn't stop Eric Curry and a star wide receiver with the dropsies certainly doesn't help, of course. But it's no coincidence that they looked a lot better when they went back to leaning on the running game.
Somehow their defense has actually played well this season, despite being completely incapable of getting to the quarterback. The problem with their defense, though, is that it is very, very basic. They don't do much - they just line up and play. But somehow they actually do that pretty well. They're solid against the run, and solid against the pass. In fact, they probably have the best defense in the NFC South right now.
They've also lost three games this season - but all three of them came against pretty good teams: the Bears, the Bucs and the Packers. They also beat two pretty good teams: the Lions and the Eagles. They've had a rough schedule so far, but it's going to get easier for them.
Three weeks ago, it looked like we could write off the Falcons as contenders. They had lost to the Bucs, had barely won against the Seattle Seahawks and lost to the Packers. But then they pulled out two impressive wins against the Panthers and Lions, and if we look at their season so far, it has been pretty good. The Falcons are only one game out of the division lead, and they are certainly still contending for the division crown.