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Have at it: Are the Falcons for real?

9/23/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for the second installment of "Have at it," where we throw out a topic and let you debate it.

This week's question comes from Potter in Atlanta, who does a nice job of summing up something a lot of people are asking:

"The Falcons have shown that they can stomp the worst teams in the league (see Detroit 34-21 and KC 38-14), but weren't able to stand up to Tampa Bay when it counted. Looking at the rest of their schedule what do you think the chances of Atlanta going 8-8 are? Also, how about the Birds chances in the Division?''

Here's my take: The Falcons still are very much a work in progress, but the 2-1 start is a sign that coach Mike Smith has them on the right path. But let's be realistic. The victories have come against two of the league's worst teams. It should be noted the Falcons won handily in both games and that separates them from the bottom dwellers.

Heading into the season, a lot of people thought the Falcons would be the league's worst team. They clearly are not. But I look at the schedule and see road trips to Carolina and Green Bay the next two weeks and a road trip to Philadelphia on Oct. 19.

Reality is going to set in quickly and the Falcons are going to take some lumps. Michael Turner's not going to run wild every week and Matt Ryan's going to look like a rookie at times. I don't see any way Atlanta wins the division because Carolina and Tampa Bay are strong right now and the Saints have enough weapons to bounce back.

Is 8-8 possible? Honestly, I've got to say no (unless the stars line up right and the Falcons catch a bunch of breaks). That's too much to ask from a team that needs one more offseason of personnel moves to get a roster that's good enough to compete for the playoffs. Looking at the schedule, I see only two games remaining that the Falcons should win -- Nov. 2 at Oakland and Dec. 28 at St. Louis.

The key for Atlanta is to keep improving each week and that will allow them to steal a couple of games that, right now, don't look winnable. That definitely can happen. I see them winning six games and carrying some momentum into 2009.

That's my take. You can put your take in the comments section below or hit the mailbag. I'll take a few responses from the mailbag and display them later this week.

Have at it.