The Atlanta Falcons, surprise leaders of their division in the NFL

Admittedly, their division is weak and their lead over the competition is short. But the Atlanta Falcons surprise, occupying the first place in the NFC South, before receiving the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday (7:00 p.m.) during the ninth day of the NFL.

Disappointing results over the years, a change of quarterback this summer… We weren’t expecting much from the Atlanta Falcons this season. That’s why seeing them first in the NFC South Division is a bit of a surprise. Without getting too carried away, either. The Georgia franchise has won only half of its games (four out of eight) and is taking advantage of the irregular – even weak – level of their opponents: Tampa Bay and Tom Brady are going through a past sale, New Orleans is on AC and Carolina among the most mediocre teams.

But Atlanta still beat Cleveland and San Francisco, both playoff contenders, as well as Seattle early in the season, which has since become a playoff contender. And the Falcons lost little to New Orleans (27-26 … after leading 26-10), the LA Rams and Tampa Bay. Sunday, they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, serious outsiders this season, but rather average for now (four wins, three losses).

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Day 9 program

Mariota, to replace Ryan

Atlanta’s success is to be found on the side of the attack. Which was not easy before the start of the championship. After 14 years of (very) good and loyal service (MVP of the 2016 season and finalist of the Super Bowl, the one where New England managed a fabulous comeback at the end of the game), quarterback Matt Ryan left for pre-retirement in Indianapolis . To succeed him, the Falcons bet on Marcus Mariota (29 years old).

Elected best university player in 2014, the latter had restarted his NFL career with Tennessee. But, in 2019, he lost his starting spot and signed in Las Vegas, where he did not play. Atlanta picked him up this summer and preferred to field him, instead of young Desmond Ridder, a promising draft pick, but kept warm for the moment. Mariota fulfills his mission correctly (1432 yards, 10 touchdowns).

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The star Cordarrelle Patterson

The real star of the Falcons is Cordarrelle Patterson (31). He arrived in Georgia last season, having known four other teams. Versatile, Patterson can be a runner, receiver or kick returner. It was in this last exercise that he excelled during his career, earning four invitations to the Pro Bowl.

In 2021, Cordarrelle Patterson had scored 11 TD’s for Atlanta (six on the ground, five on receptions). But it is mostly used as a runner. During the first day, against New Orleans, Patterson had galloped 120 yards, then he had garnered 141 against Seattle. Bad luck, however, for the Falcons: their star player injured his knee in early October and missed the last four games. What give even more merit to the course achieved by the team.

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Byrd a prison son flight

In the absence of Cordarrelle Patterson, the Georgia franchise has relied on two first-year players, Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley, who are somewhat soft at the moment. But, good news, Patterson returned to training this week. A last-minute decision will be made on him on Sunday as to whether he can face the LA Chargers.

The aerial game also announced itself in difficulty, after the loss of Calvin Ridley, author of a very good financial year 2021, but suspended the following year for sports betting and, since, transferred to Jacksonville. But Atlanta has found solutions, with Drake London, who is discovering the NFL this season, tight end Kyle Pitts, who was elected to the Pro Bowl last year, and Olamide Zaccheaus. And now there is Damiere Byrd, who has scored two spectacular TD’s in the past two weeks.

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Philadelphia Eagles remain undefeated (Thursday)

Weaknesses in defense

Thus off, Atlanta scores a lot of points (ranked sixth in the NFL in this category). But his defense also gives a lot. The Falcons are among the worst this side of the game. Grady Jarrett leads the team in sacks, but has only made 4.5. Atlanta is doing better in the AA game with seven successful interceptions.

This is the site on which Arthur Smith, the team coach, has to work. After 10 years at Tennessee, he was recruited as head coach last year. This is his first experience in this position in the NFL. And, this year, despite the overhaul of the team, its work is already producing results. On the notebook: encouraged, but to be confirmed.

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