The Atlanta Falcons need to stay the course, because the NFC South is a joke

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt


The Atlanta Falcons are finished with 25 percent of their 2014 schedule and are already halfway to their 2013 win total.

But they’re a mediocre 2-2 with two losses of varying ugliness. Coming off a 41-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which the Falcons were a favorite, people are a little on edge.

That includes Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports writer Mark Bradley, who expressed similar concerns with Atlanta’s defense as every person who watched Sunday’s loss. In an article published to AJC.com on Monday, Bradley inferred that if head coach Mike Smith doesn’t take over the defensive calls from coordinator Mike Nolan, it could lead to the entire staff’s downfall – Smith included.

“It’s time for Smitty to get gritty and do the X’s himself — because the opposing O’s are winning,” Bradley wrote. He’s absolutely right that opposing offenses are pushing around the hapless Falcons’ defense.

But he’s wrong that it’s time for Smith to force Nolan to the back burner.

Here’s why. Nolan is a defensive genius, and if anyone’s going to make chicken salad out of the chicken you-know-what that’s the Falcons’ defense, it’s going to be him. Not Smith.

So if Smith wants to keep his job, he’d be wise to keep his hands off Nolan’s defense and let the wizard have a longer leash than four weeks.

And here’s the other thing – the NFC South is just garbage. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be fortunate to win six games this season, and the Saints – like the Falcons – can’t win on the road. The Panthers have one legitimate weapon on offense, Kelvin Benjamin, and he’s a rookie. When defenses figure out he’s the only player they have to worry about, his production could wane.

Seriously, this might be the Falcons’ biggest threat in the division:

Even after a lousy start, the Falcons are tied for first in the NFC South, and no offense in the conference has scored more points.

I know what you’re thinking – Falcons fans won’t be entirely happy with a 9-7 season and a first-round playoff exit. But after a horrendous 4-12 campaign, Falcons fans should be pleased with a division title the year after. There’s only so much they can do after falling that far.

A 9-7 record and a division title would be enough to keep our head coach employed, as well as our defensive coordinator. If we’re going to keep rebuilding this thing, that’s far more important than making quick, cheap fixes in Week 5 that are just going to come crashing down in our faces.

Don’t take the bait, Smitty, because you have bigger fish to fry.

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