The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise.
They have the NFL’s reigning most valuable player and offensive player of the year at quarterback in Matt Ryan.
They play in the new, glitzy Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in August.
Oh, and they’re 4-4 so far this season with the Dallas Cowboys, who have won their past three games, coming to town on Sunday.
But there’s time to recover as the NFL reaches the midway point of the season.
Super Bowl hangover?
The Falcons aren’t the first team to get off to a shaky start following a Super Bowl appearance. The Carolina Panthers went 6-10 last season after reaching the big game in 2015. The Falcons began 3-0, but have lost four of their past five games and would miss the playoffs if they started today. Three of the four losses have been by one score, though, and the Falcons certainly are expecting a second-half run.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is not playing quite at that level of play this year. Ryan had the best passer rating in the league last season (117.1), throwing for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. This season, though, Ryan has taken a step back. He’s still playing well, but has already matched his interception total from last season and has a 92.8 passer rating.
Julio Jones remains one of the top receivers in the game in his seventh season. Jones ranks third in the league with 658 receiving yards, putting him on pace for a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Jones is coming off his best game from a production standpoint against the Panthers with six catches for 118 yards, although he dropped a wide open touchdown pass. Still, Jones will pose plenty of problems for a young Cowboys secondary.
No, not Cole Beasley. The Falcons boast their own Beasley in elite pass rusher Vic Beasley. Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks last season, but won’t do so again after missing a month earlier this year with a hamstring injury. Beasley is getting back into form with two sacks in the past three games, and remains a disruptive force that is difficult to contain.
It’s no surprise that the Cowboys have won the turnover battle in each game during this three-game winning streak by a 7-1 margin. They have to keep that going against a Falcons team that has struggled taking the ball away. Atlanta is tied for last in the league with just six takeaways at the midway point.