I remain unconvinced that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has shown statistical progression during each of his first three seasons, is anything but elite. And as a result, I'm also not convinced his mediocre ratio of five touchdowns to four interceptions through three games will remain on that same pace.
Look, the Falcons' offensive line needs to provide better protection for Ryan than it's done so far. He's been sacked 13 times through three games compared to 23 all of last season. Perhaps that's why this week's game against Seattle, which hasn't had much success getting to the passer, will be the perfect opportunity to get back to .500. Such success is going to be imperative, particularly with the Packers on the horizon. It starts with the offensive line, but this Falcons team will get better. You can't convince me otherwise.
I'll take the Eagles. I believe they will get stronger and closer and play more as a team from this early adversity. I believe they will rally around Michael Vick.
It's only been three weeks. Yes, the linebackers and offensive line are concerns, but they can win their share of shootouts and all those new parts take time to gel. Unlike, say, the NFC South, the NFC East is no great shakes -- as witnessed by the fact that the upstart-at-best Redskins were suddenly the trendy pick to win the division after three weeks.
There isn't much separating any of those four teams in the East. The Falcons could find catching the Saints and Bucs quite tough. The Bears are the third best team in their division. And as poor as the NFC West is -- and it's probably poor enough to keep all four teams in the race until December -- the Seahawks are still early in a rebuilding process.
I believe in Atlanta. They're off to a rough start as they still are trying to work out how to marry their run-first power game with explosive, quick strikes over the top to Roddy White and Julio Jones. Defensively, the Falcons are seeking better play, too. Heavy expectations, coupled with an extremely difficult schedule have many questioning this team. I expect them to play their way back into "normalcy" beginning this week with another difficult assignment, traveling to Seattle, the worst road trip in the league for teams from the eastern part of the country.
What's funny is that the worst team of the bunch probably has the best chance of making it to the playoffs. With the Mike Kafka era nearing commencement in Philadelphia, the Eagles could be in some serious trouble. Same deal in Chicago, where the offensive line seems to have little interest in protecting Jay Cutler -- not that you can blame them. The Falcons have some issues, too, and even with Matt Ryan healthy, that division is not a joke.
So that leaves the Seahawks, who after winning on Sunday are now just six victories away from clinching a second consecutive NFC West title. Maybe five wins.
None of these teams have to "turn it around." It's too early for that kind of thinking. They all have lots of division games left and injuries around the league will change the fortunes for many teams. The Seahawks might be the worst of the four, but they play in a winnable division and already beat the Cardinals. The Falcons, Bears and Eagles all suffer from the inability to protect their quarterback. Solve that issue, you're in the race. Don't and your QB will not play the entire season.