With a win Thursday night in New Orleans, the Atlanta Falcons can improve to 6-0 and match their win total from all of last season.
Atlanta has been middle-of-the-pack defensively – which is an improvement over last year – and ranks in the top 10 in the league in both passing offense and rushing offense and is third in the NFL in scoring offense (32.4 points per game).
Has Dan Quinn made that big of a difference this season?
“Yeah, he has on multiple fronts,” NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’ll start with this one. There was a lot of nepotism going on here in Atlanta. They fell in love with their players. And Tiki, as you know, the roster is never really set. You got a weakness. The Falcons couldn’t rush the passer to save their life – and they still have troubles there. But the difference now is if you’re not getting the job done – with the exception of Kroy Biermann – they’ll ship you out of here. They continue to bring players in. Try to improve the offensive line. I don’t think we’ve seen how good this Falcons team (can be). Jake Long is still not a starting tackle for this team.
“But the point is, 39 percent of the roster from last year is gone,” Dukes continued. “Pete Carroll did this before. Pete Carroll went through 140-some-odd payers before he got the championship roster. I think that’s the main thing. Guys know if I don’t get the job done, I’m not going to be here.”
While the Falcons are one of a handful of favorites in a stacked NFC, the AFC doesn’t offer quite as much resistance. New England is elite, Denver is mostly elite – despite Peyton Manning’s poor play – and the Bengals are once again off to a hot start, but can they win when it truly matters?
Outside of those three teams, everyone else is more or less mediocre. In fact, Brandon Tierney believes the AFC is simply not very good this year.
“It’s been down for a few years if you ask me,” Dukes said. “We know the cream of the crop is going to be New England, it has been Denver, and somebody physical and tough and mean is coming out of the AFC North. Whoever was coming out of the North, you know you was going to get your face punched in because that’s just what they do. I’ve never trusted Kansas City. I’ve never trusted San Diego, the surfer boys – any of those teams. The Indianapolis Colts, there should be a law written that doesn’t allow them to have the advantage that they have with that dumpster-fire division they are in.”
Indeed, the Colts are 3-2, but all three wins have come against the woeful AFC South, where the Titans, Texans and Jaguars are a combined 3-11.
“That ain’t right for the rest of the league to have to go through what they go through and then the Colts are sitting there (in that weak division),” Dukes said. “And mind you, I’m an Andrew Luck guy. But if Andrew Luck was playing in the North or the East, he would not have the record and the success that he would have because that division is an unfair advantage.”