Say hello to your first-place Atlanta Falcons

AP Photo/Bob Leverone
AP Photo/Bob Leverone

It doesn’t make any sense, but with a 4-6 record, the Atlanta Falcons are your NFC South leaders.

After a horribly tense 19-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Falcons have a nice little two-game winning streak going – their first winning streak since the 2012 season, which ended in a heartbreaking NFC Championship game loss.

It came just minutes after the New Orleans Saints dropped a 27-10 stunner to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Superdome, locking the Saints and Falcons at the top of the NFC South standings … at 4-6.

I shouldn’t go any further in this article without mentioning that there’s not much pride in 4-6, no matter where that puts your team in the divisional standings, but it’s a heck of a lot better than where this team was, three weeks ago: in London, with a 2-6 record and plenty of talk about cleaning house.

There’s no doubt that this year’s Falcons squad is incredibly flawed, but after dropping five straight games, this team is trending in the right direction. The defense has held two consecutive opponents under 20 points, and they’ve collected two big victories on the road at the end of a month-long stretch in which they didn’t play at the Georgia Dome once.

The key to this turnaround, simply put, has been playing other mediocre teams inside the division. The Falcons are 4-0 against the NFC South, and because they have beaten the Saints head-to-head, they own the tiebreaker over New Orleans.

Now, the bad news. Even with four of their final six games coming at home, the Falcons’ schedule is going to get tougher, mostly because they can’t rely on wins over Tampa Bay anymore. They host Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Arizona – all very good teams – and have to go on the road to play the Saints and Green Bay Packers. The Falcons will be underdogs in all five of those games.

So the party might be over soon, but Falcons fans should be happy to see their team fighting hard when they could have quit after a demoralizing losing streak.

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