By Ryan Leong
The Atlanta Falcons are one of only two teams to remain undefeated at 5-0. Led by their quarterback Matt Ryan, this team is fundamentally one of the best in the league and deserving of their record. Three of those wins are against the AFC West and they likely will add the Raiders to that list to improve to 6-0.
The Falcons rank fifth in the NFL scoring 29.6 points per game and are eighth in allowing only 18.6.
Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are 48-21 since he began coaching the team in 2008. He will tie Dan Reeves for the franchise record in wins with a victory on Sunday.
Ryan has been one of the better QB’s not named Drew Brees. This year, Ryan has a rating of 106.1. He has completed a career best 68.3 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1507 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The Falcons are 27-0 when Ryan has a passer rating of 100 or better since 2008.
“It is a great start for us, it really is,” Ryan said, “At this point, you can’t really worry about what is going on in the history of our organization, but we have put ourselves right where we need to be five games into it.”
Ryan helped engineer a great fourth quarter comeback against the Carolina Panthers last week. Trailing 28-27 with 59 seconds left, Ryan started a drive at the Falcons 1-yard line. He connected with Roddy White for a 69-yard pass play. That would eventually set up Matt Bryant’s game winning 40-yard field goal with five seconds left.
One caveat to their record: They’ve only played one winning team this season, but they didn’t make the schedule. Their job is to play whoever their opponent is and now, the next in line is the Raiders.
It goes without saying the Raiders will have a tough task on their hands to try and stop Ryan, and the Raiders have been their own worst enemy with a defense that ranks 30th out of 32 teams. In addition, the Raiders have been blown out in their last two road games, outscored by Denver 37-6 and by Miami 35-13.
The Falcons have depth at every key position and that certainly helps in attaining that perfect record. Running back Michael Turner is as consistent as they come. At wide receiver, Roddy White is always a threat to get open down field. And this season, Julio Jones makes the Falcons receiving corps a duo threat.
One surprise is the veteran of the squad, Cal alum Tony Gonzalez. The 36-year old leads all tight ends with 39 catches, totaling 388 yards and four touchdowns.
Gonzalez has had some of his biggest games against the Raiders. In 23 games against the Silver and Black, he has eight touchdowns and 110 receptions for 1,473 yards, his most versus any opponent. It goes without saying that stopping him is critical if the Raiders are to have any chance of winning Sunday’s game in the Georgia Dome.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.