1. There are still six wins on the schedule. To enumerate: Two against Tampa Bay, one more against Carolina, home victories over Washington and Buffalo and a road victory over the Jets. That would make 10, and 10 generally gets you into the playoffs. And the Philadelphia game here — maybe you’ve heard some discussion about it — on Dec. 6 is a tossup. That would make 11, which would make the Falcons a postseason lock.
2. There’s room for growth everywhere. This is a polite way of saying the Falcons aren’t tearing it up in any single category. They’re 19th in the NFL in total offense, and they should be in the top 10. They’re 25th in total defense, which is one spot down from last season, which was to be expected with the changes made on D. Given the losses of Peria Jerry and Brian Williams, it will be hard for this defense to improve much this season. But the offense should have some breakout games in it, which would give the Falcons a puncher’s chance against anybody.
3. Jason Snelling looked good against Dallas. And that’s a major consideration, seeing that Jerious Norwood is still hurting (hip flexor this time) and Michael Turner is beginning to resemble a one-year wonder. Turner is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, down a full yard off last season’s yield. Put simply, that yard is the difference between second-and-four and second-and-five. Either the Burner gets it going or Snelling gets a longer look.
4. This staff is not Jim Mora’s staff. Mora and Co. were fine so long as nothing went wrong but clueless when something inevitably did. There are fine coaches working in Flowery Branch now — Mike Smith, Mike Mularkey, Brian VanGorder, Sugar Bear Hamilton, Paul Boudreau — and they’ll fix as much as coaches possibly can. And then, if that isn’t enough, Thomas Dimitroff will go to work come February 2010.
5. Remember when we kept saying this might be a better team with a worse record? It still might. The aggregate record of the Falcons’ six opponents is 19-18. Their first six opponents last season were 14-20. There haven’t been any Detroits or Kansas Citys on this schedule, but things will get easier in December. The Falcons are going to lose more games — they’ll lose Monday night in the Superdome — but they’ll manage that breakthrough winning season and they’ll make the playoffs. Keep the faith.