Each week, Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts will sit down with an expert and talk about the Falcons, as well as what's going on in the rest of the league. This week's expert is St. Louis Dispatch NFL writer Jim Thomas
Reggie Roberts: Through 10 weeks of the 2010 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons — St. Louis' opponent this week — have the best record in the NFC and are tied for the best record in the NFL with New England and the New York Jets. What are your thoughts on the Falcons?
Jim Thomas: It has been very impressive watching the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith. He has brought some consistency to a franchise that has been a model of inconsistency (in terms of winning records). And judging by the personnel acquisitions in the recent years, Smith and the front office must be on the same page. There's no doubt the Falcons have one of the league's most productive offenses. I guess I'm still so-so on the defense.
RR: Rams QB Sam Bradford is completing 62 percent of his passes at "The Ed" (Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis) where the Rams are 4-1. What are the Rams doing to be so successful at home and what do they have to do to ground the Falcons this weekend?
JT: The Rams are starting to get some of their mojo back at home. The atmosphere doesn't rival that of the Greatest Show on Turf days — there are several thousand empty seats at every home game — but those that are there are very supportive. I think the Rams are playing more comfortable and more relaxed at home. And the defense has been all but dominating. I don't think the Rams can match the Falcons point for point if this becomes a shootout, so the defense which has allowed only 12.6 points per game at home, needs to come up big.
RR: What's going on in Dallas? The left-for-dead Cowboys rolled in the new Meadowlands and steamrolled the New York Giants. Was that just a blip or do you think the Cowboys are good enough to make a late season run at the NFC playoffs?
JT: Midseason coaching changes usually gets a team's attention. And often, it can lead to short-term improvement. But usually that wears off in a few weeks, and the team comes back to reality. We'll see what happens in Dallas, but I believe they are spoilers at best the rest of the way and certainly not a playoff contender.
RR: The New York Jets seemingly make a few plays late in the game to pull out victories. Do you think the Jets can hang on and outpace the Patriots for the AFC East Division crown?
JT: I like the Jets. They have a looseness and a swagger about them that may help them in close games. But I'm not sold on Sanchez yet at quarterback. I don't know what happens if the Jets have to depend on him. So in that sense, I take Brady over Sanchez, almost any day.
RR: Let's switch back to the Rams. They've lost four games by four points or less. Do they have what it takes to possibly win the NFC West with games left against Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle?
JT: Not only have the Rams lost four games by four points or less, they squandered a 17-3 lead at Tampa Bay and a late 17-10 lead at San Francisco. This team is markedly improved in Steve Spagnuolo's second season as head coach, without a lot of major personnel changes — other than at the quarterback position. An 8-8 record could win the West this year, but until the Rams show they can win a game or two or three on the road, it's hard to take them as serious contenders. Even in the West. The Rams have lost all four road games this season.
RR: Defensively, the Falcons are making strides and getting better and veteran DE John Abraham is flashing his old form as he leads the club with eight sacks. What's your take on Atlanta's defense?
JT: I see a lot of interceptions by the defense, but also a lot of touchdowns allowed. I'm not sure if there's enough on that side of the ball to make a serious run at the NFC championship. But maybe I'll change my mind after seeing them firsthand this Sunday.