Power Rankings: Preseason: 7. This week: 3.
Where they stand: They’re 6-2 heading into a Thursday night game against Baltimore. They have sole possession of first place in the division, but coach Mike Smith isn’t happy with how his team has played in the first half of the season. That’s actually a good thing because the Falcons want more. The offense, defense and special teams each have had good and bad moments. The three units have yet to put it all together in the same game. But you get the feeling that might be coming.
Falling: Peria Jerry. There were high hopes for the 2009 first-round draft pick to come back strong after a knee injury cut short his rookie season. But Jerry hasn’t been that much of a factor. He’s getting some playing time in the defensive tackle rotation, but he’s clearly a backup. Rookie Corey Peters is starting ahead of Jerry and it’s not as if Peters has been dominant. The Falcons never have gone into complete detail about Jerry’s knee injury and that leaves the possibility that he might get better with time. But at the moment, Jerry’s not playing like a first-round pick.
Rising: Curtis Lofton. He has been the starting middle linebacker since his rookie year and has been pretty good. But Lofton clearly has become the leader of the defense this season. He’s starting to produce big plays and he makes the guys around him better.
Midseason MVP: Roddy White. He has been a very good wide receiver the past few years, but he has become a great one this season. You can make an argument that White has been the league’s best wide receiver this year.
Outlook: The Falcons appear to have an excellent chance to set a franchise record with their third consecutive winning season, but their goals are a lot higher than that. Smith is right in his belief that there’s room for improvement because there are tough games such as Baltimore on Thursday night and Green Bay, Tampa Bay and New Orleans later in the season. For the Falcons to win the division and have a high seeding, they’ll need to put it all together in at least some of those games. But that seems entirely possible because this team is relatively healthy and seems to be building momentum.