After the Saints won last night, they have solidified themselves as a top team both in the NFC and the NFL. Along with the Colts, the Saints are the only other unbeaten team in the NFL. And the Saints have beaten some pretty good teams, including the Falcons, the Eagles, and the Giants, as well as taking care of teams that they should have dominated. Drew Brees is a lock to make the Pro Bowl right now, and has got to be at the top of the league when it comes to the MVP discussion. He has so many weapons on offense this year, having completed multiple passes to eight different receivers, led by Marques Colston, on Monday against the Falcons. Even with Brees throwing for over 300 yards, the Saints rushing game also put on a dominant performance, rushing for 146 yards, led by Pierre Thomas. And with the offense being so great, it is hard to believe that the defense has been just as impressive, recording three interceptions and three sacks on Monday night, and looking dominant week in and week out.
But let's not forget about the Falcons, who still have hopes of making the playoffs, most likely as a Wildcard team with the Saints making a run at an undefeated season. If the playoffs were to start today, the Falcons would be the first team left out, as they are currently in seventh place in the NFC. And after last night's performance against an impressive Saints team, the Falcons look as if they can play with the best teams in the league. I expect them to play well in the coming weeks, playing opponents such as the Redskins, the Panthers, the Buccaneers twice, the Jets, and the Bills. They also play the Giants, the Eagles, and the Saints again, but if they can pull off one big win as well as sweeping all of the sub-par teams, then the Falcons should be sitting pretty as the playoffs start. Matt Ryan, despite a less than memorable game last night, is still having a great season. Before last night's game, Ryan has 11 touchdowns to go with his six interceptions. This gap has now narrowed to 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he still has a respectable quarterback rating of 82.4. The Falcons also have some great weapons on offense with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez as Ryan's two favorite targets, combining for 10 receptions, 197 yards, and the only receiving touchdown against the Saints. And let's not forget about Michael Turner out of the backfield, who broke out with 151 yards in the ground, adding a touchdown himself. Turner showed a lot of burst and power last night, as exemplified by his one run where he broke a tackle from every player on the Saints defense, or so it seemed. Needless to say, the Falcons should not be counted out yet, but they do have some work to do in the coming weeks.
As the NFL reaches the halfway point, the upper echelon of teams is starting to separate themselves from the rest of the league. In the coming weeks, the playoff picture is going to become much clearer for a lot of teams. It remains to be seen who is going to step up and continue to play well, but Monday night showed two top candidates for the NFC Championship game.
Matt Ryan and Drew Brees look to lead their teams into the playoffs. Was last night's Monday night game a preview of the NFC Championship game?