By Matthew Asher
After the Atlanta Falcons’ bye week in Week Seven, every member of the NFC South will have played six games apiece. If a friend came to you earlier in the summer and told you the NFC South’s standings would look the way they currently do after six games, you would have dismissed your friend as either crazy or a liar. As it turns out, at least your friend’s not a liar.
For the most, part the general consensus said that Atlanta and New Orleans would be fighting over the top two spots while Tampa Bay and Carolina would fight for 3rd place. The reasoning was simple enough: The Saints and the Falcons are led by great quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, respectively. It was believed the loss of head coach, Sean Payton would probably costs the Saints only two or three wins. Tampa Bay and Carolina are the two lower-tiered teams in the NFC South for many reasons, but the primary one is that their quarterbacks are still relative newcomers to the NFL.
Nobody expected the loss of Payton would lead to New Orleans starting out the season 0-4 and a horrendous defense giving up 30.8 points per game. Brees is still doing a fine job of commanding the offense, averaging 28.2 points each game, but having to put up 31 points a game is too much to ask even an elite quarterback.
The other biggest surprise so far is not that Atlanta is leading the division, but that they’re doing it at a perfect 6-0, making them the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. They’ve never started out a season better than 4-0 until now. Matt Ryan has finally stepped up and is being referenced in the same breath as other elite quarterbacks. Tight end Tony Gonzalez is just one touchdown shy of being in the exclusive 100 touchdown receptions club, which currently features just seven members. And when Atlanta plays in Week Eight, the big story will not be if head coach Mike Smith can get Atlanta to 7-0, but that his next win will make him the franchise leader in wins.
New Orleans is technically in last place in the division, tied with Carolina with a 1-4 record. The difference between the two teams is that the Saints just recently won their first game while the Panthers have dropped three straight games, starting with the last-minute loss to the Falcons.
Tampa Bay just won their second game last week and trail the Falcons by four games. What’s interesting about the bottom three teams in the NFC South is that all of them are 0-2 on the road.
Atlanta may be 6-0, but only one of those victories, the 30-28 win over Carolina, has come against the NFC South. Tampa Bay is also 1-0 within the division, while New Orleans is 0-1 and Carolina is 1-2. New Orleans and Tampa Bay play each other this week with Carolina hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Falcons news, see CBS Sports Atlanta.
Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.