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Coach of the Year candidate Mike Smith continues to transform the image of the Atlanta Falcons. A franchise once mired in (at best) mediocrity used to wilt under pressure and succumb to other teams fighting for their playoff lives. Now the Falcons take care of business in workmanlike fashion at home and on the road. Mora's team would have flown out west to San Diego and found a way to lose to a team that is in shambles. Smith has instilled a pride in the locker room that will not allow the defense to falter and the offense to fumble away chances at football in January.

On Sunday the birds will venture into the Super Dome with a chance to make another statement. While Tampa Bay and Carolina are looking over their shoulders at the team gnawing at their heels, the Falcons will apply pressure by punching the clock and punching out another division foe. In their game back in Atlanta early last month, the Falcons were tougher and meaner than the Saints. The final score says the Saints lost by two TDs, but the game was not that close. What was regarded as a laughable squad on defense prior to the season absolutely stifled Brees from the opening snap. The worse news for Brees and company is that this defense of dirty birds is only getting better.

Reggie Bush may play this game? Good. Brees is putting up Pro-Bowl numbers this season? No problem.

You see, while teams like the Cowboys and Bucs come to the stadium and open their designer leather briefcases, the Falcons come with a dented yet charismatic lunch-pail. They're more smash than flash. More grits than glitz. They are in the mold of teams like Pittsburgh, Tennessee and dare I say, the Giants of NY. They may not have the talent level yet to oust the Giants from the playoffs should that opportunity arise. But take a look at the Falcon roster. Thomas Dimitroff has nailed his first draft with a bunch of players. Ryan grabs the headlines and is not only in the running for Rookie of the Year, but also MVP. Others like Curtis Lofton and Harry Douglas have been steals. Sam Baker has been injured but was more than filling a spot of the line of protection for Ryan. And Chevis Jackson could develop into a star at corner. The Atlanta Falcons are closer to being a force in the NFL than their counterparts in the NFC South.

That is why Carolina is worried, why Tampa is fretting. The Falcons lost the first of their matchups with these two teams early in the season on the road. Carolina came back to the Georgia Dome and got their whoopin'. Tampa comes back a week from Sunday. A win against the Saints this Sunday could make that game for the Division.

Then it may be Atlanta's turn to look over their shoulder.........and smile.

Will Falcons win the NFC South?

Yes

83.3%

No

16.7%

I Haven't looked to see if this was posted, but thought I would post it anyway.

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Regardless of the Saints 6-6 record, they are 5-1 at home. Thats what scares me the most. Division games can be unexpectedly close, and the season is on the line for the Saints. The likely hood that they make playoffs is very small, but they are not officially eliminated and I am sure they will look to avenge the *** kicking handed down by the Falcons to them. I definitely think the Falcons have the talent to beat them, but we have not looked sharp on the road, except for in Oakland. I love Coach Smith's gameplanning and how he gets the team to focus on the upcoming game is brilliant. Lets hope that continues in this game against the Saints.

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