Sep 17, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass during the game against the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
The Atlanta Falcons are alone at the top of the NFC South at 2-0. What got they to this point?
The NFC South is brutal ground. Four tough teams, four good quarterbacks, and a need to start hot if you hope to control the division. Thus far it's worked for the Falcons, even if it hasn't be the way they expected; Michael Turner hasn't been running the ball well, and Jacquizz Rodgers hasn't managed to step up when needed, and yet the Falcons still lord over the division at 2-0.
Line play, on both sides of the ball, has been the key reason why the team has succeeded thus far. Allowing just two sacks, the offensive line has given Matt Ryan a clean pocket to work from, and he's been devastating so far. Ryan is completing over 70% of his passes, and thrown five touchdowns without an interception. The offensive line have allowed him to be one of just seven quarterbacks who have been sacked less than three times, and it's shown.
On the flip-side, the defensive line under Mike Nolan's leadership has used varied looks, and hybrid schemes to rush opposing QBs from a variety of angles. This has resulted in six sacks, and opposing QBs are averaging a QB rating of just 68.6 when facing the Falcons. It's easy to give all the credit to the secondary, but in Monday night's game with Denver you saw a mixture of confusing looks, and varied fronts get inside the head of Peyton Manning, and create mistakes.
The remainder of the division is full of question marks. Tampa Bay look extremely talented, but their loss to the New York Giants shows that they're still a young team who are learning how to win. The Carolina Panthers are at 1-1 also, but have looked like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, while the New Orleans Saints are in complete disarray without their head coach. The next two weeks for Atlanta represent stout match-ups with San Diego and Carolina, but if the Falcons can prevail they'll have a stranglehold on the season, and the division.